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Road Hammers truck on through "Blood Sweat & Steel"

By Dan MacIntosh, June 2008

The Road Hammers' musical journey began rather questionably as a Canadian reality show. So, why is its self-titled, authentic country trucking song-filled "Blood Sweat & Steel" CD so doggone good? Well, to begin with, the making of this band began with genuine certified parts, as each piece of hardware in its toolbox was already job-tested before the hammering road gang ever took shape. Secondly, The Road Hammers built their house with good wood, so to speak, by constructing a song list out of great old songs from the past and equally well-written new ones.

"It was CMT Canada," vocalist Jason McCoy explains, "and they heard that on my solo project, I was putting together a concept band where we thought we'd make this ultimate driving record. And they followed us with cameras right from the beginning. That led to having a platinum record in Canada (their debut came out in 2005, and they have 4 top 10 singles in Canada), and that led to signing with the folks in Nashville, Montage Music. Then GAC picked up what was our second season, which was about us going to America. So it was quite a ride."

The very thought of reality shows gives many of us chills. Ozzy Osbourne, for example, came off looking like a complete idiot throughout the run of his old MTV program. But he's probably too fried to even be aware of this image. The Road Hammers, on the other hand, realized from the start that their TV adventures were going to be a whole lot more complimentary.

"It was done in a documentary style," McCoy elaborates. "It was directed by Jason Priestly of 90210 and he brought a lot of credibility to it; he's had a lot of successful documentaries that he's made, including one for The Barenaked Ladies that did basically the same thing we're doing. As far as the content of the show itself, it follows the behind-the-scenes of what it takes to deal with the music industry in Nashville. So, it's not so much like a reality show, like the Hulk Hogan show or Gene Simmons or anything like that."

Girl on the Billboard

The band's lineup is rounded out by guitarist/vocalist Clayton Bellamy, bassist/vocalist Chris Byrne, and drummer Corbett Frasz, and perhaps these inside-look TV programs whet the appetites of music fans who might not have even realized they liked this sort of trucking music; the variety The Road Hammers are so proud to call their own.

"We took everything we decided we'd do, and we thought, 'Well, we'll make it Road Hammers style,'" says McCoy, sharing the act's not-so-secret recipe. "So, that was the first thing we wanted to make sure of - that we brought it up do date."

The first single was "Girl on the Billboard, which charted in the U.S., though not very high. "It wasn't an easy sell, perhaps at first. But it's a great song that was originally done by Del Reeves in the '60s - and I was such a big fan of it as a kid, you know - I'm so glad we got a chance to do that on the record. But other songs, like "Willin'," which was originally done by Little Feat, were encouraged by our bass player (Byrne) to cut and I'm so glad we did. We put our own signature on it and it's worked out very well."

The Road Hammers are not real life truckers, of course. Yet that doesn't mean they do not empathize with the hardworking trucking lifestyle.

"I think that, really, we feel like we're truckers ourselves in some ways," McCoy theorizes. "We always say, 'What is a Road Hammer?' We say, 'Anybody who drives anything from 18 wheels to 4 or 2.' It doesn't matter if you ride a unicycle; if you have a restless spirit in your heart, then you're a Road Hammer.' We feel that way as far as musicians go. We hop in a bus, not a truck, but we have the same "office," if you will, as the drivers out there. It's a state of mind, and we wanted to capture that in music. I mean, we all love those drivin' songs. It's just worked out very well that it's clicked with all the members of the band, and we've come together, and our sum is greater than the parts."

There's no shortage of road songs in country music, thank goodness, and The Road Hammers are now fruitfully plotting their next batch of pavement pound-ers.

"We're already starting to look at the next record...oh man, there's so many," McCoy enthuses. "There's "Looking at the World through a Windshield," another Del Reeves song. There's some songs by Chris Knight...he wrote "Hammer Going Down," which we recorded...there's another one called "I Was Framed" and another one called "Highway Junkies," so we're kind of tossing those in the air. There's a lot of tunes. It's one thing to be about to go in and cut a record, but when you find those magical tunes that really lock up what you're gonna to do, that's when it becomes something special."

The Road Hammers dearly love many of these songs from the past, or they wouldn't have found a home for them on this latest release. But the group also contributed a few of their own fine songs. "There's 'I'm A Road Hammer,' which is our anthem," McCoy says. "It kind of explains what a Road Hammer is. And 'Nashville Bound,' which talks about the story of Clay (Bellamy) when he was on his way down to Nashville and got stopped by the border patrol. There's a song called 'Scars,' which is our ballad and basically talks about how we're all on the same highway of life. There's a song called 'Overdrive,' which talks about the hectic lifestyle associated with living on the road, no matter what you're dong. There's 'Keep on Truckin'.' The first line is: 'Some days I don't know if I'm gonna make it by/The price of diesel's getting' mighty high/Live on caffeine and borrowed time/Stretching a nickel into a dime.' I mean, that's what's going on right now."

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