Based on the name of Vancouver duo The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer, I expected A Real Fine Mess to be a mix of death metal and maritime folk music. However, their sound is defined by a funky mix of bluegrass and blues.
Working in harmony, ‘The Harpoonist’ Shawn Hall provides vocals and plays harmonica,while ‘The Axe Murderer’ Matthew Rogers plays guitar, keys, drums and an old Telecaster. Sounds on the album range from unapologetic country jams in “Mama’s In The Back Seat” to 70s inspired rock guitar in “Closer to Death,” and classic bluegrass in “Cry a Little.”
The opening track, “Black and Blue,” stays true to traditional blues, but showcases the band’s style with unpolished vocals and a dissonant chorus. This is followed by the funkier “Do Whatcha,” which opens with an isolating guitar riff. The remorseful tone is summed up by the chorus “You know you can too / You’re out of control / But you do whatcha do, whatcha / You gotta to do whatcha say,” as if the singer has resigned to a life of hardship. “A Real Fine Noise” continues the blues feel, but with a contemporary spin. Acoustic sections are fed through reverb and synthesized to give a chaotic feel to the music.
The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer’s gritty mix of folk-steeped rock and soul blends to create ‘blues that gets you in the crotch.’ Overall, A Real Fine Mess is a real fine album.