A Real Fine Mess (Independent)
According to the band itself, the music of the Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer is “the blues the way it was meant to be played”. Depending on how you feel about the blues, that’s either a self-deprecating assessment or a self-aggrandizing one.
Either way, it takes cojones to make such a claim, and apparently singer–harmonica player Shawn Hall and guitarist-drummer Matthew Rogers have balls to spare.
(Okay, maybe not literally.)
Whereas the duo’s previous full-length outing, Checkered Past, was an exercise in more-or-less straightforward swamp blues, however, the latest one deviates from the template. “Black and Blue” is greasy, country-fried R & B, complete with a horny-horns brass section and full-gospel backing vocals. Meanwhile, “Mama’s in the Backseat” is white-lightning rockabilly, and “Feel Me Now” is hot-summer-night soul.
In lesser hands, all this genre-mashing would result in something that deserves the title A Real Fine Mess. Fortunately, Hall and Rogers (plus their coproducer John Raham and a small army of musical guests) know exactly what they’re doing, which makes this album a truly fresh take on a whole mess of old sounds.