A Langley-based country alternative band, DerbyTown, is releasing their first album to coincide with the anniversary of the Halifax Explosion.
Tom Hammel, Sean Schonfeld, Bob McIntosh, and James Badger make up the group which is filled with unique mixtures of sound including the pedal steel guitar.
The group formed in 2018 with the idea of honouring the tradition of Americana music, 60s classic country, and alt-country from the 70s and 90s.
After a year of writing and performing in and around the Fraser Valley, Cattle Stop Diner will be released on Dec. 6, the 102nd anniversary of the Halifax Explosion.
A a member of the Langley Heritage Society, Hammel, the band’s founder, said he was drawn to this disaster from Canada’s history.
“I was fascinated by the heroic story of train dispatcher, Vincent Coleman, who managed to telegraph a warning to incoming trains, saving many lives, but losing his own,” Hammel explained.
Their song “Halifax Explosion” aims to put a human story to the tragic disaster which killed 2,000 and injured 9,000 after two ships collided in the harbor, one of which, was carrying explosives.
“Coleman knew that might be the end of his life so in his last telegram, he put the words ‘goodbye boys,’ which is said in our song,” Hammel added.
Hammel said it’s not all history on the album either; lighter tunes like “Honky Tonk Friday Nights” is a nod to the famous Marine Club, a live music venue in Vancouver for 50 years.
The band’s writing is heavily influenced by stalwarts such as Blue Rodeo, Son Volt, Ray LaMontagne and Ray Price.
“There’s this 60s country musician Harlan Howard who said ‘country music is nothing but three chords and the truth’,” Hammel recalled. “We like to say we’re five chords and the truth since there are a few more of us and a bigger sound.”
Six of the seven songs featured on the album were penned by the band. They range from soul-searching, big life changes and lost loves to a ‘whirling dervish of a woman’ who blows through town like a hurricane.
“DerbyTown… we took that name because of Langley. Derby started to be a town site in the 1950’s and James Douglas wanted to name it as the capital of the province,” Hammel explained. “It just never came to be and now it’s a ghost town.”
The name of the album and title song, Cattle Stop Diner, even comes from local influence; a tiny coffee shop on Allard Cresent that Hammel said looks like it’s straight from the 1950s.
People can catch DerbyTown at the Heatley in Vancouver on Nov. 30 and in the new year, Jan 30, in New Westminster for their official album release party at The Heritage Grill, 447 Columbia St.
“We’ve played a few times at Porter’s Bistro and we hope to play a lot more local shows and summers festivals next year,” Hammel said.
For more information, news, and music, people can visit www.derbytownband.com.
Cattle Stop Diner will be available on all major streaming sites like Spotify.
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