by Ken Kelley November 21, 2014
Founded by Canadian country singer-songwriter Jason McCoy in 2004, The Road Hammers have become a force to be reckoned with.
The group’s 2005 self-titled debut record made its way to the No. 1 slot on the Canadian country album charts, selling more than 80,000 copies here at home, and yielding four Top 10 hits.
Of the 21 career nominations that the group has earned at the Canadian Country Music Association Awards, they have laid claim to 10, including back-to-back wins for Group or Duo of the Year in 2005 and 2006.
A follow-up record, The Road Hammers II, hit store shelves in early 2009. But then after a New Year’s Eve show the following year, the group quietly disbanded.
A failed American label deal, which McCoy attributes to a change in ownership, certainly didn’t help matters. But it was not the sole reason behind their decision to go their separate ways.
“We entered into a record label deal that I think both sides entered with the best of intentions but before long, the label had been absorbed by another company and we essentially got caught up in paperwork,” McCoy says.
“I think a lot of Canadian country music artists leave Canada with a gung ho attitude that they will make it in Nashville but things sometimes fall apart and the wheels come off. To see your potential career stall in the United States, the home of country music, breaks your heart a little bit.”
The members of the group – McCoy, guitarist Clayton Bellamy and bassist Chris Byrne – each went on to different projects. Bellamy hit the road with his namesake band while McCoy returned to the solo artist arena, releasing his album Everything in March 2011.
The spark that ultimately reignited The Road Hammers came at the 2013 Canadian Country Music Association Awards. Despite lying low in the few years prior, the group turned in an energetic performance, which reverberated with the audience as much as the band members. McCoy says they knew they had indeed rediscovered something special on stage.
“I think taking a break helped,” McCoy affirms. “When we got together at the 2013 CCMA Awards for a show it was the most potent thing – from the downbeat to the end of the set – that I’ve ever experienced. In this industry, you typically only get one chance and here we are with a second shot. We couldn’t let it go to waste.”
The trio reconvened and set about writing the material heard on their third full-length effort, Wheels, released earlier this year. Wanting to prove that their celebrated Canadian Country Music Association Awards performance was more than just a stroke of luck, McCoy says they instinctively knew they would have to put their best foot forward.
“The spark was there almost immediately but we didn’t know if radio or the fans would even care about new music from The Road Hammers. It had been awhile since we had put our music out there so things were a little tentative at the outset,” McCoy says.
“But we also knew that nobody was going to celebrate mediocrity. Nobody was going to be excited about new music if we weren’t excited about it and so we waited to gather some of our best songs.”
Their plan worked.
The first two singles from Wheels, “Get On Down The Road” and “Mud” quickly ascended to the Top 20 singles charts in Canada, with the video for the latter track racking up more than half a million views on YouTube.
The Road Hammers Canadian tour alongside Doc Walker and Blackjack Billy is slated to wrap in Vancouver in mid-December, but first McCoy is looking forward to the group’s return to the Maritimes. He is also excited about the possibilities to be discovered amongst all three bands on the tour.
“There is a strength in numbers mentality, hitting the road with two other bands,” he says. “This is a concert ticket I feel is worth three times what it is. I’m hopeful that there will be some on-stage collaboration but also maybe some songwriting happening between us all. It is going to be a great tour.”
What: The Road Hammers with Doc Walker and Blackjack Billy
When: Saturday Nov. 22, 8 p.m.
Where: Casino New Brunswick, 21 Casino Dr, Moncton
Tickets are $47.45 (plus taxes and service fee). Advance tickets are available at the Casino Gift Shop, by phone at 1-866-943-8849 and online at casinonb.ca