My therapist (and I guess other people in my life) often tells me I'm too hard on myself. That may be the case, but after listening to Hawk and Steel's Anywhere But Here, I wonder if that's maybe a trait that all country singers (and by extension, their listeners) share. These are songs of desperation, frustration, and -- most importantly -- ambition in rural Canada. For once, the album title captures the theme of the music: as the press materials point out, these are songs about people who know they could make it...anywhere but here.
Hawk and Steel prove their songwriting chops from the start with "David and Katie," luring us in with yet another tale of love gone wrong:
David grew up in a small town
Working night shifts at the liquor store
All he ever cared about was
Making sure him and Katie [got] much more
Oh how life can go upside down
so wrong with a single mistake
but now Katie's gone
David's dreaming about different days
But, as it turns out, that single mistake is a bank robbery gone wrong. The band then careens through barroom country punk with a hate song to their hometown, "Victoria." Peter Gardener's vocals remind me of a more melodic Arliss Nancy. However, Hawk and Steel can pull your heartstrings in more traditional ways, as can be seen in the country ballads "Whatever Happened to Us?" and "Fire in the Wind," both of which will jerk a few tears if you're feeling sentimental. In other words, even if Victoria isn't that kind of town, Hawk and Steel are keeping the best of alt-country alive and well.
Hawk and Steel -- Official, Facebook, Name your price (but definitely contribute something!) at Bandcamp