FORGOTTEN RANGE - Hammerlock (Steel Cage)
Well-established underground San Francisco trio Hammerlock would appear to have made their most definitive statement with "Forgotten Range".

Hammerlock isled by husband Travis Kenney (vocals/guitar) and wife Liza Kenny (bass/vocals) with Mikey Kingshill on drums and vocals and for this album are joined by guests Jason Story (harmonica) and Bob Clic (pedal steel). Over 19 tracks, they deliver a hard rock-influenced take on '70s outlaw country - the sort delivered by the likes of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings (RIP). As influential as they may be, I can't help reflect that so too may be Australia's Johnnys and American bands The Supersuckers and Jason and The Scorchers.

"Forgotten Range" features the band's well-honed take on hard rockin' country rock, with highlights being "Conquest Train", "Wrong side of Town", the title track (which is bona fide traditional/hardcore/honky-tonk country),"Ain't One to Judge" (with lead vocals from Liza), "Lowdown Salinas Waltz". In comparison, "Snide Little Faggot", "No Man's Land" and "You Can't Stop War" are musical departures and show more hard/heavy rock influences.

Also appearing are unique and impressive takes on songs by Dwight Yoakim ("Buenos Noches From a Lonely Room"), David Allen Coe ("She Wore Red Dresses") - who incidentally wrote the late great Johnny Paycheck's greatest hit "Take This Job and Shove It")- and "Spotlights" (with vocals and guitar from drummer Mikey.) Honourable mention to "I Love Robbing Banks" (also recorded by David Allen Coe) and there's also a version of three-time visitor to Australia Steve Young's "Lonesome, Onery and Mean" (which was recorded and made famous by the late Waylon Jennings.)

Hammerlock's "Forgotten Range" should more than satisfy long serving fans and impress the uninitiated with their well honed hard rocking country rock. - Simon Li


 

TRUE GRIT: THE FIRST FIVE YEARS – Hammerlock (Steel Cage)
Shit stirring in rock and roll, in all its forms, is something to be applauded. So right now I’m clapping my beer-stained mitts in-between waving a glass of something frothy in the general direction of Hammerlock.
Reputed to be “the biggest pain in the Bay Area’s ass”, their roll-your-own, trucker cap-wearing, alcohol-stained take on cow punk could rile the meekest of social workers with its rampant promotion of the outlaw life, beer-drinking and the National Rifle Association. Which, at the very least, sets them up at the opposite end of the spectrum to all those horrendous Emo bands (who all deserve to be shot with a ball of their own shit, only that’d give them something else to moan about).
 
It’s hard to work out where the piss-take starts, if at all, on “True Grit”. At a guess, I’d say Hammerlock belt out many if not most of these tunes without the slightest hint of irony (although the liners do decry “I Shot My Baby” as not to be taken literally.) You might be criticised for playing “Sunshine” within a bull’s roar of a needle exchange centre (“Every time a junkie dies/ The sun shines a little brighter”) or posting the lyrics of “Cold Coors” to that elderly uncle who had to give up the drink, but as the mighty Dictators say, and those of us who are unworthy are liable to repeat, “Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke”.
 
Hammerlock (built around husband and wife Travis and Elizabeth Kenney on guitar and bass respectively) has been a going concern in and around San Francisco for more than a decade, but for years couldn’t pull a crowd. Too country for the punks, and way too punk for the country crowd - and probably too politically incorrect for all of them -  they drew on support from rock and roll misfits like The Jack Saints, The Idiots, ANTiSEEN and REO Speedealer to work their way, er, up. These 29 songs are from the band’s days on the late Man’s Ruin label, culled from the “Anthems for Outlaws” and “American Asshole” albums.
 
It’s a pungent noise Travis, Liz and their posthumously un-named drummer spit out - all grinding guitar and paint-stripper vocals. There’s the vague twang of fucked up country rock in the guitar and the feel of a whisky-blitzed punk stumbling against furniture to the whole shebang, and when it clicks (“Hate Radio”,“Knock Her Out”) it chugs along with the grace of an eight-wheeled delivery truck hurtling downhill on faulty air brakes.

Did we say there's something here to offend almost everyone? Sample some of the titles: "Musta Been Drunk", "Whiskey Drinkin' Woman" and "Tenesee Whiskey" - and they're just the ones about drinking. "Put Another Log on the Fire" was a mid-'70s Australian hit for two insipid Kiwis named Bill & Boyd and it never sounded much like this. More's the pity.

Travis has a substantial voicebox on him - a bit like a hungover bear with its balls caught in a steel trap - and there's (relatively) light relief from the occasional spot on the centre microphone from Liz (listen to her rip it up in fine style on the closing "Tennessee Whiskey").

You can say what you like about stereotypes but these good ol' boys (and girls) do this greasy skillet, trucker cap-wearing stuff so well. What's more, they probably don't a dried up dog turd what anyone thinks.

File next to Hellstomper. Steel Cage have released another album (the band's third) "Barefoot and Pregnant" which sounds like it needs to be tracked down. – The Barman







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