I appear to have been hiding under a rock the last few years and have completely missed one of the brightest talents to come out of Canada and now I can’t stop listening to him and watching him, I’m fascinated!
Steve Hill is literally a one-man blues rock band, it really is just him playing the guitar with a drum stick stuck on his head to hit cymbals with and his feet playing bass drum and snare and hi-hats. The sound he has on his live album is genuine and has something majorly likeable.
The album was released on 11th May on Manhaton Records and was recorded live at La Chapelle, Quebec in November 2017, it really does convey his stage presence and class playing to a staggering degree.
Opening with ‘Rhythm All Over’ the words introducing his style of playing, “You start with the left foot, the right will follow”, blues rich guitar with added fuzz, melodic feeling beats as the music builds to a nice southern edged guitar solo. That does seem to be Hill’s style, variations and complex arrangements throughout the album tracks, but the feel of the music has an underlying consistency.
‘Go On’ and ‘The Collector’ carry on the dirty blues fuelled riffs and grime ridden grooves that are even more apparent on ‘Damned’ with almost hypnotic drum beats and chords reminiscent of Status Quo strangely. I have to keep reminding myself that this is not a studio album, these songs are live with no overdubs and that takes it into stellar territory for the performance alone. ‘Tough Luck’ is lighter, the dexterity of the opening guitar solo has a tone erring on the side of southern blues throughout the melody and the rich tone of the vocal. Added harmonica adds to the vibe.
‘Never Is Such A Long Time’ has more mesmerising beats and as it builds the riffs get grimier, the vocal gets more impassioned. ‘Hate To See You Go’ has an aggression in the playing, the guitar and an explosion of sound leading in the melody. I’m still trying to reconcile in my brain that this is just him, playing all the instruments, singing and delivering such a full sound.
‘Emily’ throws in the lighter toned vocal, more melodic in delivery but it’s the guitar playing that is an absolute stand out with such a great track. ‘Nothing New’ has a harmonica lead and the darker feeling ‘Out of Phase’ has you getting a little lost in the lyrics, a lovely song very well sung and performed. ‘Still Got It Bad’ takes us way down into a southern rock vibe, as the big hit of the drum provides the rhythm and the vocal the melody, the guitar remains the star of this one, loud at times and very grimy.
‘The Ballad of Johnny Wabo’ is a welcome addition to the album and very well delivered. Hill’s voice has grown on me and the soulful delivery of the words, the blues infused tones clear and sitting above the music. Picking up the pace, the music fills your ears and has me engulfed. Squeaky riffs and rapid playing must leave this one man band exhausted. ‘Dangerous’ is another demonstration of the variety Hill is able to deliver with the pitch of his vocal, the tone of his guitar and the overall vibe of the music with a catchy melody and driving pace.
To close the album with ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ is clever as it demonstrates yet another change of tone and vibe. The skill required to play such an iconic track well is tremendous and to not just to lead it with his guitar but to provide the rhythm section and an impressive vocal is bordering on madness. But he does it and a reminder – this is recorded live…well done that man!
I can see, or rather hear, just why one of our reviewers at Down The Front Media who saw Steve Hill supporting King King recently thought he was rather special. I have to agree.
The question going around in my head is how does he develop more though? Yes, he has successful studio albums under his belt and now this one so he obviously has the talent but is the whole one man band thing going to be a stumbling block in his creativity going forward? I would not say he is a one trick pony, far from it but in his playing if he wasn’t doing everything could we get to hear even more diversity from him? Question is I suppose do we want to or is this enough?
Rhythm All Over
Never Is Such A Long Time
Hate To See You Go
Out of Phase
Still Got It Bad
The Ballad of Johnny Wabo
Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
Check out Steve Hill on social media and his website.