COVID gives Langley musician time and inspiration for new album

by Ari Lee/Special to Langley Advance Times

With a guitar-pedal under his toe, Tom Hammel doesn’t get discouraged easily – and his passion for creating music definitely hasn’t slowed because of COVID-19.

Hammel, a Langley-based musician – who is an experienced pedal steel guitarist –has collaborated with Paul Pigat, James Badger, Jeremy Holmes, and Alex Pangman to create a little something “special” coming out today.

It’s an album, called “Steelin’ Crazy Rhythm,” that was inspired by Hammel’s love for jazz and swing music.

During the pandemic, the Fort Langley musician reached out to Canadian jazz and swing artists to collaborate on this project being released today [Monday, Oct. 26] on Bandcamp – a music streaming service.

He described Steelin’ Crazy Rhythm as a blend of fast- and slow-paced music, containing 12 songs – one original composed by Hammel and 11 variant covers.

And, what makes this album unique is that four of the songs are considered jazz standards that he wanted to do a cover of, featuring his pedal steel guitar. The rest of the songs come from the 1940s western swing era.

“The album has really high-level musicians in it,” said Hammel, pointing to each.

Badger is the drummer for country alternative band DerbyTown [another band founded by Hammel], which released its first studio album late last year.

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Pigat is a guitarist who also collaborated on the album, playing his electric guitar on five of the tracks.

Holmes is a songwriter and bass player who has recorded and played with a wide range of artists from Canada.

And Pangman added her voice, literally and figuratively, to the project. She’s featured on the song “It’s All Your Fault,” a classic western swing number and the only track on the album that contains vocals.

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When COVID-19 was declared as a pandemic, Hammel took advantage of timing and decided to undertake this project.

“I’ve been playing pedal steel guitar for a while and I’ve always thought about recording jazzy-western-swing music,” he said.

After he connected with the artists, each musician individually went about recording his or her parts at home.

Normally, musicians would go to a studio and record all of their parts in the same studio, said Hammel. But that wasn’t possible due to the pandemic. So, they improvised, as so many artists are being forced to do right now.

“I pieced all of the different parts together. I mixed it and mastered it, so it was done remotely – which was interesting,” explained Hammel.

One of the challenges of recording each artist’s piece at a different venue was the technology use – each needing to know how to record, save, and transmit files.

But, it was the only way to put the album together with COVID-19 restrictions, Hammel said. And it worked.

While the album is releasing now on Bandcamp, the team plans to make the album available on Spotify and other music streaming services by end of the year.

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