Minimalist blues duo The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer (“HAM” as they refer to themselves) are days away from beginning a string of pre-summer tour dates in the Yukon.
The pairing is made up of Shawn “The Harpoonist” Hall on vocals and harmonica and Matt “The Axe Murderer” Rogers taking care of the guitar and percussion while also providing vocals.
The two have deep, individual appreciations for blues music, having each grown up – Hall in Toronto, Rogers in Vancouver – on such legendary musicians as Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and B.B. King.
Four years ago the two decided to combine their mutual appreciation for such legends and The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer was born.
The duo quickly became favourites in their current home base of Vancouver and have since put multiple festival appearances under their belts, sharing the stage with acts such as Dick Dale, Jim Byrnes, and Rich Hope.
Moving from stage to studio, the two have also made a name for themselves as established producers, working with such artists as Gordie Johnson, Mark Berube, and Ben Rogers, to name a few.
Deciding to waste no time, Hall and Rogers recorded their first album, The Blues Can Kill You!, in 2007 – a surprisingly short time after HAM had formed.
The following year they released their sophomore album, The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer, and 2011 sees the release of their latest collection of tunes, The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer’s Cookbook.
It is this album that the band is touring now. The sound found on these three releases is a mix of blues and rock music that fits comfortably alongside contemporary acts in this genre, as well as acts dating back to the ’60s and even earlier.
One comparison with a contemporary act can be made between the Vancouver duo and American band The Kings of Leon, mostly with respect to vocal similarities shared between Hall and Kings of Leon singer Anthony Followill.
This writer couldn’t help but also notice that a track like “Love Me ‘Fore Ya Leave Me” is reminiscent of the type of blues experiments made by Led Zeppelin on their third self-titled release.
The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer respects the longstanding traditions of the genre while bringing their own modern touches to the music.
This is blues music equally appropriate for the barroom and the back porch and there is a rock & roll swagger present that, due to their being a two-piece, is not overpowering. Fans of rock and those into lighter music will equally enjoy this group.
The two will play their first Yukon shows on May 18 and 19 at The Pit in Dawson City, then move on to The Gold Rush Inn in Whitehorse on May 21 and a house show in Whitehorse the next night.
Singer-songwriter Ryan Mcnally brings local colour and the Yukon presence as the supporting act in all the HAM gigs in the territory.