J is for Joe Vickers
I used my ‘A’ on Against All Authority, which was a good choice, but it means that I didn’t get to highlight Audio/Rocketry. Audio/Rocketry are one of my favorite folk punk bands, writing catchy sing-alongs about music, friends, and travelling over three full lengths between 2009 and 2011. They haven’t been as active lately, which is a shame, but that’s been mitigated a bit by frontman and bandleader Joe Vickers’ solo output.
Valley Home is all about the history of Vickers’ Alberta home, the old western days from the eyes of immigrants and miners. Opener “Into the Darkness” is carried by Vickers’ Western drawl and a series of handclaps/stomps, and tells the (likely quite common) story of immigrants coming to the mines of Western Canada. “Pioneer Trail” has the familiar pace of an Audio/Rocketry song, while “Boomtown Bustle,” an instrumental, sounds like the soundtrack to a busy, bustling mine town, soon to go bust. Songs like “1919 Strike” and “In Struggle” are union worker anthems with a tinge of history. And then there’s “Allan Cup.” The Allan Cup is the trophy awarded to the championship team of Canada’s senior amateur hockey team. Vickers’ hometown Drumheller Miners won in 1966, and the song serves as ode to his small-town hockey team during their glory days.
Vickers is fluent in the history of his home town and home province. Valley Home teaches the listener all about Western Canada. And while, sure, some of us might claim to know a bit about the West and a story or two about mining history, Vickers is a knowledgeable guide, playing catchy chords and Valley Home is full of folk songs, both relaxing and upbeat, to teach us all about the history of Drumheller, Alberta. Few major cities have bards telling their histories as proficiently as Vickers does for a town of under 10,000. All he’s missing is something about their dinosaurs.
Valley Home is available for free download on bandcamp. If you enjoy it, be sure to give Audio/Rocketry’s records a listen. All have the same feel, and Eastward + Onward also has a touch Canadiana, and it’s so perfectly Canadian that there’s a hockey game on in the background of that live video. Oh, Canada.