Review- “Checkered Past”- The Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer

reviewed by Michael Thomas

Upon first seeing this band’s name I fought off the urge to judge a band by its name. The first thing that came to mind was some really insane metal band who scream like the devil. As it turns out, the band is nothing like that at all. Despite the murderous name, the duo is actually a blues-rock outfit with an extra helping of blues.
The album name certainly brings with it the air of trouble, and Shawn Hall and Matthew Rogers enthusiastically deliver it. Whether it’s a thumping guitar line or some really ferocious harmonica (yes, there is such thing), the music reflects well the album’s general theme of things going to hell.

Not all is just an aggressive, bluesy attack though. One thing I was not expecting were some excellent, excellent background vocal harmonies that make songs like “Mellow Down Easy” so smooth to listen to. “Are You Listening Lord?” is another great examples of the great harmonies while simultaneously being featured in a song where the singer is praying for spiritual guidance.

I personally love the songs where the band goes all-out, playing at the highest intensity they can. One such example is “Get Out,” a song propped up by a very steady bass line, some great harmonica and coupled with lines like “Get out my house mama” and “Get out my mind mama.” While “Roll with the Punches” isn’t as aggressive as “Get Out,” the song’s use of keys keeps the song fresh and exciting.

While a few of the songs seem to be about women giving the guys hell, a song like “Chevrolet” is a polar opposite. It’s a typical “I’d do anything for you”-type song, but flavoured with enough blues to not make it sound like some kind of cheesy romantic ballad.

My only gripe with the album is that a few of the songs blend together in my head. That being said, though, there aren’t too many other acts in Canada who attack the blues as raucously as Hall and Rogers do, and because of that you may very well get a good kick out of Checkered Past.

You can get the album via Bandcamp.

Top Tracks: “Get Out”; “Mellow Down Easy”

Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)


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