The Slamming Doors: Road Beneath the Wheels

Paul Whyte

The term “country” gets thrown around a lot and it’s readily apparent that The Slamming Doors has some ties to the genre but it’d be wrong to just label them with that description. As their latest album “Road Beneath the Wheels” opens up with the track, “Dirty Work,” one might wonder if this band has been hiding out in Nashville for years since their overall sound is solid and professional throughout. This Iron Range group brings a lot more to the table than just being a run of the mill country band. Actually, the country edge is just a fraction of what is happening with this music. By the time the first track is over, there is little doubt that the instrumental break downs are pulling on jam and rock influences and certainly something more than just country.

While the vocals and guitar work that ranges from rhythm to intricate picking from Adam Herman along with the pedal steel of Mike Randolph indeed create a certain contemporary Southern Rock feel, the way the keys by Craig Skalko and lead guitar by Pat Hawkinson work off each other in parts along with the groovy bass lines of Craig Lasart brings about a unique and sometimes funky mix of instruments that excels in creativity. The beats by Matt Johnson on drums skillfully holds down the work going on and things flow together very well.

There is indeed some banjo on the album, played by Hawkinson, like on tracks such as “Clover,”  but it stands far apart from the typical more traditional country band’s around. They make it a point to create their own feel and the arrangements of instruments is what makes this album something special. There are little nuances, and some not so subtle things, that really shows how tight this band is and that they went out of their way to put together something more progressive.

A great example of how the instruments work together unexpectedly is displayed on the track “Moonlight Reprise.” The lead guitar shines out with scales that are delightfully surprising amongst the rest of the band. The combination of technical jams mixed with an accessible overall sound keeps the album fresh and moving right along. The track “House of Cards” starts off like it’s going to stay in the realms of country, rock and blues but then it breaks away into a kind of unusual chorus compared to the rest of the song and brings out some serious grooving instrumental parts that are weaved together perfectly.
There is a wide variety of approaches in the sound of this album. Songs such as “Blue Mountain Range” is a beautiful sentimental piano driven ballad while tracks such as “Same Old Story” leans more towards funk and blues. By not pigeonholing themselves into a set feel, they explored well into their potential and created something with some musical depth.

Lyrically the album deals a bit with relationships that are often under some strain and pushing through hard times. There is also some observations of nature. While there is an acknowledgement of somethings that can be tough in life, the album never truly comes off as negative.  

According to the liner notes the album was engineered and produced by the band themselves with Hawkinson taking credit for engineering. Considering this, the band is certainly experienced to create the sound they have going on in this album. There are a number of things with the production that add to the album such as the clever use of effects in certain areas and the way some of the jams are laid out.

While the album is fun to listen to the band should be checked out live. The jam parts of the songs as a full band will no doubt make for a very entertaining live experience. The band doesn’t always play with their full line up, but upcoming shows include The Brickyard in Hibbing on Saturday, August 2; Merritt Days at Mountain Iron on Friday, August 8; and as a trio at  Fitger’s Brewhouse on Friday, August 15.