November 4, 2014 Shaman’s Harvest – Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns (Album Review)
Hard Rock band Shaman’s Harvest has been plugging away since 1996 when founders Matt Fisher (bass), Nathan “Drake” Hunt (vocals), and Josh Hamler (guitarist) began working together in their hometown of Jefferson City, Missouri. Releasing their debut album in 1999, titled Last Call for Goose Creek, the band followed with a series of albums including their highly charted 2009 album Shine. Now five years later the band is back with their fifth studio album, Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns, via Mascot Label Group. Faced with unforeseen adversity, Hunt fought a rare and aggressive throat cancer while recording the album. Considering Nathan underwent treatment in-between, heading into the studio on a daily basis to lay down his vocals, it is a miracle it made it at all, but is a testament to his determination. Thankfully with the help of vocal coach Juliet Jackson, Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns was finished and released to the public on September 16th. Now the line-up of Fisher, Hunt, Hamler, Joe Harrington (drums), and newly added Derrick Shipp (guitar) replacing Ryan Tomlinson following the completion of the record, are ready to roll with their exciting new material.
Opening with single “Dangerous,” Shaman’s Harvest brings a smoldering and sexy track. With the freedom of knowing he was finally cancer free, one can hear where Hunt is coming from with this song. Following is the melodious “Here It Comes” which is about being in love with a hooker apparently. This leads into “Ten Million Voices” where Hunt deals with the feeling of being alone and the isolation that such a struggle brings. Next is bluesy “Blood in the Water” with delicious harmonies that resonate strong. The song is also where the album title originates from and it should be great to hear live. Adding a delightful acoustic song is “The End of Me” with that lovely squeak of fingers on strings making it feel very real, along with lyrics that are poignant in its subject matter. From the soft melancholy, the audience goes to the other end of the spectrum with “Country as Fuck” which is a fast, fun, belligerent, self-mocking and has a country twang, while “Hero” is emotional and euphoric. The cover of Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana” is unexpected, however it is a classic and they remain true to the original. Then a sway on the anthemic ballad “In the End” will get the audience reaching for their lighter, celebrating a second chance. Almost like a celebratory mantra, “In Chains” is exultant and bluesy, with a breathless passion underlying the huge chorus. Then “Silent Voices” is darker, sentimental and despairing, while it changes pace as it continues and is pain-wretched and desolate. Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns wraps up in moving and passionate fashion with a re-working unplugged extended version of their big hit from 2009 “Dragonfly.”
Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns proves what a beautiful voice Hunt has and to think he nearly lost this talent is scary. This album is in many ways cathartic for him, but it does not become morbid or depressing, instead it suggests a hope and a refusal to give up. The songs are well-crafted, the music arousing, and it will certainly extend their reputation and win them new fans. The fact Hunt is now cancer free is fantastic news; that he managed to complete this recording while going through all that is remarkable and awe-inspiring. CrypticRock give Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns 4.5 out of 5 stars.