Winning two Alberta country music awards is a double thrill for The Boom Chucka Boys.
The Central Alberta band received both the Rising Star and Group/Duo of the Year awards from the Association of Country Music in Alberta at Sunday’s ceremony in Red Deer, leaving its members on an emotional high.
Guitarist Joel Rathjen, of Sylvan Lake, feels it was amazing to be chosen out of so many great Alberta artists. “It’s a privilege we do not take lightly, as (the awards are) voted by our peers in the industry and by fans,” said Rathjen, who believes this province has an “immensely talented pool of top-notch country songwriters, singers and players. …
“Sunday night was proof of that.”
He hopes this recognition will help promote the band’s music “and draw folks out to see us play (since) creating a great concert experience for the audience is our ultimate goal.”
The win comes at an opportune time: The Boom Chucka Boys’ second full-length album, Ramble, is coming out on Feb. 10.
The new record will shift away from an acoustic, retro-roots sound towards radio country, with electric bass replacing the stand-up bass.
But that doesn’t mean the Boys — including singer Ryan Langlois, bassist Teddy Roy Michaylow, drummer Ben Shillabeer, and new guitar player and background vocalist Neil Macdonald — are giving up “on what made us unique,” said Rathjen.
He sees the change as diversifying and broadening the band’s appeal. At live shows “we’ll still throw in something retro. We want to make memories throughout the night for people … to get the audience invested in the experience. … We still have our own sound,” he added. “This is just more electric guitar driven.”
The eight-song album, produced by Lacombe country singer Gord Bamford and recorded by Royalty Records, contains five tunes co-written by the band, as well as three from Nashville songwriters.
“For the first time, songs were pitched to us,” said Rathjen, who was flattered — but also initially flustered by this. “The songwriter in you finds it hard, at first,” he admitted.
“But these songs were so good they were hard to pass up.”
The up-tempo Turn This Car Around was written by Ryan Tindell (who co-wrote Eric Church’s Springsteen). The tune about a sexually-charged relationship is fun to perform live, according to Rathjen, who felt one of the goals of recording the new album was to capture the energy of live performance.
“We used an edgier approach. Listeners will get more of an emotional ride.”
He co-wrote the heart-break song I Won’t Ever Stop Trying with Red Deer country singer Duane Steele.
Rathjen and Langlois collaborated on the title track, Ramble, about life’s rough journey. And Rathjen and Nashville songwriter Byron Hill co-wrote Runaway Heart, “a song about ‘Don’t fall in love with me, ’cause I’ve got a run-away heart. This train is leaving. …’ It’s basically warning that ‘I can’t commit.’”
The tune is pure fantasy for Rathjen, a family man, who saw his wife Cristina through a tough year of cancer treatments and surgery in 2013-14.
He’s happy to report things are now much better with his wife’s health.
This year’s schedule is already starting to fill up for The Boom Chucka Boys, with a spring tour with Bamford and then the summer festival circuit.
A select Red Deer audience will also get to see the group perform at a Feb. 11 CD release party at the International Beer Haus, and Stage. The show is hosted by CKGY and only open to winners of their radio contest.