'Solo Recordings, Volume 1' (2012)
EP 'Solo Recordings, Volume 1 1/2' (2013)
'Solo Recordings, Volume 2' (2014)
All released on No Label Records.
It must be a strange feeling, to know there are other people with exactly the same name, walking the earth and even playing music. To get 'tags' on FaceBook meant for somebody else! Well, this is 'the meanest guitar player in Canada' blues man Steve Hill. Known as one of the most prolific and exciting guitarists of the country, starting out professionally at sixteen, he has been touring and recording for the past twenty years.
His first album, released in 1997, was voted 'Best Canadian Debut Recording' by Vancouver’s Real Blues magazine, that also proclaimed Steve Hill to be the best young blues guitar player in North America. He toured in Canada, France and Belgium, followed by the release of his second album “Call It What You Will" in 1999. He shared the stage with many of his heroes, like Ray Charles, B.B. King, Jimmie Vaughan, Buddy Guy and Johnny Lang. The show was awarded with a Maple Blues Award. In 2001 Steve Hill is the producer of Nanette Workman’s album ’Roots N' Blues’. He completes the promotional rounds with her and then joins Cajun star Zachary Richard for his Canadian tour. Steve's third album "Domino" follows in 2003 and he works with Michel Pagliaro, a singer-songwriter from Montreal (DVD 'Live à Québec'). On 'Devil At My Heels' he makes a combination of blues and rock, promoting the album on a tour sharing stages with ZZ Top, The Tragically Hip and Jeff Beck. He collaborates with Québec based rocker Eric Lapointe for 'Ma Peau'. In 2009 a new project, Steve Hill & The Majestiks was launched with an album 'The Damage Done'. He opens for Metallica and Alice Cooper. 'Whiplash Love' (2011) contains a mix of Southern rock, country, rock&roll.
So over the course of several albums he has explored everything from hard rock to folk while always incorporating the essence of his first love, the blues. In 2012 he goes back to basics for his seventh album: as a one man band.
I think we know the 'other' Steve Hill well enough now. Let's listen to some music! Oh, if anybody happens to know another person with my name, please, drop me a line? I'm kind of curious!
'Solo Recordings Volume 1': The 'Solo Recordings' series was recorded live in the studio, with Steve Hill not only on guitar and vocals, but also on bass drum, hi-hat, shakers and whatever he can do with his feet at the same time. All of this is nicely pictured in the fold out booklet of this first part in the series, nicely packaged in a brown and black lay-out.
Eight of the twelve songs are originals, he also covers "Honey Bee" (McKinley Morganfield), "Politician" (Jack Bruce / Pete Brown), "Ain't Wastin' Time No More" (Gregg Allman) and "Preachin' Blues" (Robert Johnson).
A great move and a very successful return to his blues roots! Steve gets a Juno nomination and wins 'Album of the Year' for the best self-produced CD at the Memphis International Blues Challenge, besides five awards at the yearly Lys Blues Award gala in Québec.
'Solo Recordings Volume 1 1/2': In 2013 Steve Hill treated us to a 4 Track EP, as a nice little teaser in appreciation to all his fans. "Long Road" was already featured on 'Devil At My Heels', but Steve explains that the new take is recorded closer to the way it was originally written, as this developed from an early acoustic version. Steve also said that unless he came up with a few tunes he liked more, all four off the release would be part of his new album. Well it seems that he did indeed find at least two songs he liked more, as only "Go On" and aforementioned "Long Road" stayed!
'Solo Recordings, Volume 2':
Steve is again the only performer on this album, singing, playing the Gibson guitars, drums, percussion and harmonica. All tracks are recorded by himself, no overdubs, in four different studios. Production by Steve Hill, co-engineering and mixing too.
1. "Still Got It Bad": The opener sets the tone. A heartfelt, gritty, raw rendition about love and cheating: "I saw you take off your ring." Impressive whippings by the slide guitar!
2. "Slim Chance": Another co-write with Joshua Parlett, this track rocks with a poppy hook. Sonny Landreth is still the only Slide Guitar God for me, but this gentleman comes as close as he can get, wow!
3. "Tough Luck": A track with beautiful harmonica playing. A quite slow, acoustic finger picked song, in a dark doomsday folk blues style.
4. "The Collector": Powerful, confident blues rock with jagged edges. Steve definitely has his own recognizable sound. I almost see that slide drawing sparks!
5. "Never Is Such A Long Time": A hidden threat, underlined by the stinging guitar. An uncertain, ominous feeling drips all over this heavy, R&B styled song.
6. "Hate To See You Go": Cover, written by Walter Jacobs. Little Walter's forte was his revolutionary style of harmonica playing, but this track doesn't contain any harmonica playing at all! Just lots of straight, uptempo electric guitar in a country blues rock groove with a driving beat. Call and response between vocal and guitar.
7. "Better": A simple ballad, featuring electric guitar, sung over arpegiated chords in 3/4 time. It has a memorable melody line and yet another cool slide guitar solo.
8. "Simple Things": A cover by the great Ray Bonneville. Another quiet but catchy ballad, acoustic and sunny this time. I hear a little bit of Louis Armstrong in the vocals here, blending in with more of that interesting slide work.
9. "I Want You To Love Me": Cover, written by McKinley Morganfield. On this Muddy Waters track Steve cranks up the distortion and gets rolling! He keeps the mean sound, it is a great way to showcase a classic track without doing the same as others all over again. Ending in a convincing plea...
10. "Go On": The harmonica is back! Stripped down blues rock with attractive riffs. Especially on this track Steve sounds like a full 'real' band! He even does a little wolf howling... This song was also featured on the EP 'Solo Recordings, Volume 1 1/2'.
11. "Long Road": A relaxed acoustic third take on this track, also featured on the EP and in 2007 on 'Devil At My Heels'. Great finger picking, a simple rhythm and a wonderful choice for a last song of this very, very fine album!
Hard to believe, that this is a one man band! One man bands are sometimes considered quite boring, because of their limitations (not me saying that!). I didn't get bored for one second and even pressed 'repeat' a couple of times upon first listening already. Very interesting record, not too much of a mixed bag either, just blues how it was meant to be for a very long time. Steve embraces his roots, his genuine love of the blues and showcases his immense talents at the same time. Masterful guitar playing and strong yet pleasant sounding vocals, refreshing and sometimes surprising songwriting, clever arrangements, very good sound. The works of an expert, who reinvented the one man band!
Written by Johanna J. Bodde - December 29th, 2014