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Steelin' Crazy Rhythm

So what does the pedal steel guitar have to do with jazz?     Plenty…
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Musician Tom Hammel has combined his love of the steel guitar and western swing and jazz music to create "Steelin' Crazy Rhythm". It's a project that delves into some of the swinging music of 1930s and 40s western swing bands; an era bands attracted huge crowds to dance halls and clubs. 

Tom incorporates some non-traditional jazz instruments featuring the steel guitar, and incorporating accordion and ukulele to create a unique sound. This approach creates a fresh sound for some of the old jazz standards that the band performs.

While the steel guitar had its start in Hawaiian music, it was eventually picked up by the early western swing bands of the 1930s and 40s. That music took big band arrangements and replaced the horns and reeds with exciting arrangements on stringed instruments. The swinging harmonies played by steel and electric guitars and electric mandolin were a hallmark sound of the genre.

Here is the band playing an original western swing-flavoured piece from the album "Steelin' Crazy Rhythm"

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More on the Album

With the rise of COVID-19 and a pause in the live music scene, Hammel thought this would be a great time to collaborate with some of Canada’s finest jazz and swing musicians to produce an album of his favourite western swing and jazz tunes. With some diligence and learning on everyone’s part, the remote recording hurdles were cleared successfully to create this music. “I’m amazed at how the contributions of these wonderful artists has elevated the music on this album, and I am grateful that they have shared their talents in this way”, notes Hammel.

 The album is available digitally on Bandcamp and your usual digital sites. It was self-produced by Tom Hammel who recorded, mixed, and mastered it at Tiki Studios in Langley, BC.


 The arrangements are always innovative, like the accordion that echoes the steel on Sydney Bechet’s Si Tu Vois Ma Mere. It’s very well-produced and reminded me of the quality of Noel Boggs Quintet’s Magic Steel Guitar. Album Review in "Jumpin' from 6 to 6" magazine

Steelin’ Crazy Rhythm is the jazziest Western swing album I’ve heard in a long time.  The musicians, recorded remotely from across Canada during the pandemic, all impress as they join to create a sound with depth and layers, several of those layers being Hammel himself who variously plays pedal steel guitar, accordion, electric and acoustic guitars, and ukulele Album review in The Syncopated Times, Utica, NY

Great job on capturing the feel & essence of hard driving Western Swing... I can almost hear Tiny [Moore, mandolin player for Bob Wills] sitting in with you all.  John York, Past president, Western Swing Music Society BC

 The performances are superb. Paul [Paul Pigat, guitar] is, of course, his usual brilliant self on the tracks he plays on; as your steel playing matches those high standards, the results are pretty damn exciting! I also really dig the accordion added to some numbers, particularly on Si Tu Vois Ma Mere, answering the steel lines, and on What Is This Thing Called Love, with its extended 3-way riff near the end. You've found new things to contribute to some old favourites of mine, such as Steelin’ Home, and Mission To Moscow; and Cherry proves an excellent choice for a new adaptation. But even more impressive, I think, are the ballads: delicate, forceful, and emotional, all at the same time. your “feel” for these tunes is outstanding, and a bit of an eye-opener. The more I listen, the more good things I hear: a great set of recordings, with not a single second-rate tune in the bunch. Dave Schroeder, Owner East Records, Vancouver, BC

"Your album is brilliant" Chema Valbuena, DJ, El Refugio Perdido Radio Show, Leon, Spain

 "Bob would say aww" Western Swing Music Of Texas FB Page

"...Tom Hammel is a local steel guitar player and quite a good one too"   Paul Norton, In The Pines Radio Show, COOP Radio, Vancouver, BC

Langley Advance Times, October 26, 2020 Story here