Shawn ‘The Harpoonist’ Hall and Matthew ‘The Axe Murderer’ Rogers evoke a grisly nautical imagery. Armed with an arsenal of harmonicas, a mess of foot percussion, and a road-worn Telecaster, the duo kick out raw and primal blues in the tradition of a ‘decades-deep blues style’ (Scott Brown, What’s up Yukon), while infusing the genre with a jolt of renewed energy.
The two met and bonded over music while recording a radio jingle. Their memorable name is inspired by a lyric from Kris Kristofferson’s ‘Bobby McGee’ that references the blues harp, (‘I took my harpoon out of my dirty red bandana’) and ‘axe’, a common term for the guitar.
Their influences range from the iconic songwriting of Willie Dixon to the boundary pushing of Jack White and Danger Mouse but their sound is distinctly their own, smothered in greasy, gritty soul and imbued with funk.
Shawn and Matthew have received considerable recognition in the last few years. They have been nominated for ‘Blues Album of the Year’ at the Junos in 2014, for multiple Maple Blues Awards and won ‘Blues Act of the Year’ at the SiriusXM Indies in 2013.
Joe Strouzer sings songs from his travels from Newcastle to New Orleans and a hell of a lot of places in between. His driving resonator guitar is coupled with true harmonica voodoo and biting songwriting of modern trouble, heart-pains, moonlit trysts, drinking and devilment, peppered with a rich history of blues.
2015 saw the release of his studio debut, Bottle Broke, with 9th Ward Tape, a collection of old blues and traditional American songs following in summer 2016, recorded straight to tape in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Now in its fifth year, River Town brings the music of America’s heartland to the south west in a summer celebration of roots and Americana music. With a vibrant programme of blues, bluegrass, country and gospel, 2019’s series is packed full of performances from global icons and rising stars.
In 2019 the River Town series takes place at venues across Bristol including St George’s
Bristol, The O2 Academy, SWX, The Winston Theatre at Bristol University SU and The Crofters Rights,
and also makes its first foray into Bath with two performances at The Forum. With artists including k.d. lang, Lucinda Williams, The Shires, The Mavericks, Keb’ Mo’ and Jerron ‘Blind Boy’ Paxton, it’s the most ambitious programme yet.
River Town began in 2015 under the banner of Bristol Americana Weekend and under a co-producing partnership between Colston Hall and St George’s Bristol presented Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Larkin Poe, Police Dog Hogan, Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham and many more outstanding artists of American roots music.
The festival returned after wide-spread acclaim in 2016 to feature Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Mary Chapin Carpenter and the now internationally famous The White Buffalo.
In 2017 we launched the festival for a third year under the new name of River Town and showcased some of the finest blues, gospel, country and bluegrass, from across the pond and closer to home in Colston Hall, St George’s Bristol and for the first time in O2 Academy. Three UK greats – Paul Carrack, Nick Lowe and Andy Fairweather Low – joined forces in a rare trio performance that celebrated their shared love of American R&B, soul and country. The compelling singer songwriter Martha Wainwright performed along with R&B powerhouse, gospel legend and civil rights icon Mavis Staples. Plus performances by duo The Shires with crossover stars Ward Thomas brought country-pop to Bristol.
In 2018 the festival expanded across the city as part of our Colston Hall Presents programme, showcasing events taking place in venues across Bristol during the Hall’s Transformation project. In it’s fourth iteration River Town’s line-up featured music icons Graham Nash and Rosanne Cash alongside The Barr Brothers, Steve Earle & The Dukes, The White Buffalo.