As our exposure continues to grow within the Canadian music scene, we frequently receive recommendations for new music and introductions from musicians looking to promote new material. Sometimes all it takes is a chance encounter, as was the case with Broomsticks & Hammers, when we caught their guitarist Paul Aitken on stage at a recent event in London, ON, and connected through social media. Paul was happy to introduce us to his band Broomsticks & Hammers online, and we were thrilled to discover some amazing music through this connection. Having spent the last few days listening to “Mirror Box,” this eclectic brand of folk-roots music has proven to be an incredibly addictive collection of tracks, and I remain grateful to Paul for sending this album our way.
Having already established themselves in their native London, ON (including a 2016 Jack Richardson award and 2018 nomination), Broomsticks & Hammers are ready to share their music beyond the reach of their immediate home counties. With diverse musical influences ranging from folk, country, blues, rock and even a little ragtime, this talented collection of musicians (Bill Needham/vocals/guitar, Paul Aitken/guitar, James Lefave/guitar, David Jury/bass, Jeff Floyd/percussion, Jeff Gee/mandolin, Michael Bonnell & Kiley Joe Masson/keyboards/accordion) combine these genres to create a lively (tongue-in-cheek, even) album that absolutely has to be heard.
Opening this 2017 release with “Svetlana,” I immediately detected similarities to the sound and style of Blue Rodeo, which only intensified after several more listens, and quickly appreciated that Bill Needham even shares a distinct vocal delivery as found in some of Greg Keelor’s earlier works. “Svetlana” certainly provided a hook that grabbed my attention, but go ahead and spend time listening to this album in its entirety and you will be justly rewarded with a phenomenal collection of music from this talented ensemble.
If you are looking for some blues, start with “Playin’ By Their Rules,” where traditional guitars are accompanied by some great organ; subtle at first, but dominant down the stretch with a bluesy solo. For those seeking something a little more folksy and laid back, check out the accordion and distinct East Coast flavor that is “Madame Clark.” Still looking for more? How about “Lord Tunderin’ Jesus,” complete with a Southern Cajun vibe reminiscent of BeauSoleil, although with the lines “There’s no hockey night tonight / no one’s stomping on the floors … East coast is like Sudbury / lost without a song,” you are promptly reminded of those distinct Canadian roots. And if Canadiana is your thing, tracks such as “Gina” and “Don’t Leave Bruises” will not disappoint, as does “Moe Berg,” which could easily pass as a ringer for The Barenaked Ladies in terms of sound and style.
Still looking for something a little country, a little bluesy, and full of crossover mainstream appeal? “Second Hand Store” is the song for you. Probably my favorite track on “Mirror Box,” this particular number allows each band member to shine (the organ towards the end gets my attention upon each and every listen). Yet as incredibly polished and well produced this is as a studio album, I have a strong sense that Broomsticks & Hammers are a band that are fully appreciated when heard live, minus the constraints imposed under studio conditions. Fortunately for Team GDW, we shall cross paths with this band in just a few weeks time at the Home County Music and Art Festival in London, ON. Highly recommended.