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Cow-punk and power tools with The Uncas

Alberta boys punch out rock ’n’ roll with a twang

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Alt-country, the category for The Uncas’ latest 2005 album Drop the Ball , does little to describe the power-tool-accompanied, whiskey cow-punk, the band bridges between early-country legends Johnny Cash and Hank Williams Senior, and rocking-hard icons the Rolling Stones.

"I don’t know what country is," said Sook Unca on the road to their next gig in Ontario on their cross-Canada tour.

"It is just something that melded with our brains and souls that we can’t escape. It doesn’t sound like Shania Twain."

The Uncas bring their whiskey cow-punk Monday, Oct. 24 to the Boot Pub.

Add Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban to the Uncas’ hit list of singers who look like ‘N Sync, but wear cowboy hats.

At the same time the Uncas are anything but average cowpokes; the 20-somethings are known to hang from the rafters, fly through the air and even Skil-saw an acoustic guitar during their yee-haw, rock-hard performances.

Power tools were only a natural progression for the originally small-town wedding band that tired of reception chicken dances and Chattahoochee beats three years ago and set off to the big city. The group held all their rehearsals in a tool shed.

"We were surrounded by drills, welders and a joe press," Sook said. "We are multi-purpose: we started adding singing drills and welding stuff along with the tunes. John figured out any kind of power tool turning against brushes made an electrical field that affects the pick up of a guitar in a very unique way. It makes an other-worldly sound."

The combination of rock ’n’ roll with spirited country banter and saws biting into guitars gets crowds fired up – along with local fire departments.

One concert set off fire alarms and drew a visit from the Calgary Fire Department.

"Our shows are never dull," Sook said, laughing at the memory.

With all four band members writing songs, The Uncas are never short of original work and each piece takes on a life of its own as band members transfer from drums, to vocals, to guitar, to lap steel and of course Skil saw.

"I think that is what adds to the urge," Sook said of the band’s ability to switch up on instruments. "It seems like a different band is playing each song."

Nothing is straightforward about the band, including their name, The Uncas, which translates as crooked or barbed, and points to their deviation from the norm.

The tour is promoting their newest album, Drop the Ball , released this September. Mastered in New York, the live recording from their hometown gig at the Side Track Café in Unca, Alberta captures the energy of the Uncas’ music with fans screaming in the background.

"It is definitely pretty bass-heavy for a country album," Sook said. "It doesn’t sound like anything else out there. Our feet are firmly planted in country, but our head and brain goes somewhere else sometimes."

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