By B. Simm
CALGARY — In their heyday it seemed that the Smokin’ 45s could do no wrong. They played to bars filled to the brim not just every weekend, but two or three nights a week. And it wasn’t just bars; there were weddings and birthdays, country BBQs and bush parties, rodeos and car shows… the 45s played them all, all the time to an undying fan base and constantly winning over new believers.
They had the “magic.” One reason is that they were more than just a three-piece rockabilly band driven by a single snare, stand-up bass and fancy guitar licks. In fact they weren’t really a rockabilly band at all, but rather a bluesy, country, boogie-woogie, honky-tonk, swingin’ rock ‘n’ roll band. As they eased seamlessly in and out of so many styles they carved out their own distinctive 45s’ sound. It was punctuated by Scott Martin’s rapid-fire fretwork and Mike Fury’s velvet growl into the microphone leaving them crying in the aisles.
Martin would move on to Cowpuncher and found glory playing newfangled pop, punk and rolled into roots rock. Meanwhile Fury and bassist Tom C. Smith laid low until the Mike Fury 4 gathered steam with the addition of hotshot guitarist Mike Hell formerly of the Razors.
When asked if this seems like the second time around, Fury just laughs. “It’s not the second around for any of us, it’s like the 50th time around.” Nor is it an extension or evolution of the 45s, says Fury. “We’re doing some of the original tunes from the 45s only because they’re good songs. And as the drummer and the singer of that band, if I don’t do them, no one is ever going to them. It doesn’t make sense to let those songs die.”
With Mike Hell in the mix, a self-proclaimed “punk rock” player, new material might lean towards being a bit tougher. Hell, who’s just coming out of a bad personal patch, finds it easy to string words and music together because he’s got something to say these days.
In full support, Fury says, “That’s what we’re here to do. Holler about stuff. Sometimes it’s feelings, sometimes it’s just balls.” But it’s always about love.
“Yes it is,” nods Fury. “All songs are love songs. Corb Lund once said he’s not ever going to write another love song, and I laughed out loud when I heard that. That’s bullshit. I know what he meant, and I get it. But they’re all love songs. Love and hate, they’re the same thing.”
Currently the Mike Fury 4 are taking their love songs on the road, test driving them in small town Alberta. They don’t plan to make a whole lot of money, but they do plan to write great material and enjoy every moment. Fury is particularly pleased with how things are shaping up.
“Mike plays the songs like I hear them in my head. When I gave a him a song and he’d play it back, it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, that’s cool. Thanks.’ It was, ‘Okay, that’s EXACTLY IT!’ And Tom and I always have had good chemistry. When I called him up to fill in for a couple shows, we had one practice and it immediately clicked between those two [Hell and Smith] as well. This is the perfect line-up.”
Writing new material and only playing originals will take time to jell with certain a audience. That’s not a concern. Another level of band satisfaction underway is their unwillingness to compromise.
“There’s two types of bands,” says Hell. “Bands that are cabs, and bands that are buses. A cab band asks the crowd where they want to go, and you take them there. But we’re a bus. You get on and if you like it, good. If you don’t, get off at the next stop.”
Tom C. Smith watches quietly as his two band mates swap comments. When they look in his direction for some input, he takes a sip of beer, smiles and leans back in his chair, “Yeah, the band is great. It’s tight, gets me out of town, and back to what I do best. Slapping the bass.”
Catch the Mike Fury 4 singing their new love songs at the Oak Tree Tavern on Sat., Nov. 28.AB, Alberta, Mike Fury 4, Oak Tree Tavern