The thing about rhetoric in the music business is that it is as important to the success of a record as the instruments which are played on it – but while the instruments can be taken at face value, the rhetoric needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Why? Well, think about it – does a record really have the power to “change your life”? Can one album really tear down the established construct in which the rest of the music industryhas been succeeding for years and prompt the business to reconfigure its practices? Can the drums on any one particular song really hit a listener in such a way that they actually feel it physically? This sort of rhetoric is instrumental in helping to paint a picture for listeners and promote an idea – and it’s fun to think it can be taken literally – but the language seldom accurately supports the experience.
The important word to note in the sentence above is “seldom.” That is “almost never,” but not “never.” Steve Hill’s Solo Recordings Volume 1 has the power to uphold the magic cast by the flurry of rhetoric which comes to mind when people hear it. Not only that but the really cool thing about it is the fact that the whole experience is provided by just one man; like Bob Log III before him, Steve Hill plays guitar with his hands and drums with his feet and his heart just bleeds soul.
The first time the drums hit so hard that they’ll take a listener’s breath away is with the fuzzy and warm kick drum which drives “Ever Changing World,” which opens the album. There, after they reclaim their breath, listeners will discover what it means to truly feel the rhythm as the guitars coil around them and hold them warmly. That dusty guitar will calm any hesitation a listener might have about diving headfirst into this record and, as the song fades out, listeners will be off with it; ready to follow wherever it leads.
As it turns out, the destinations that Hill is bound for through this ten-track excursion are any and every greasy spoon that will allow him to play – and he sings about some of them here. He laments his trouble in Hogtown (that’s Toronto – for those who don’t know) when he blows into town for the first time in “The Ballad of Johnny Wabo” and nearly screams, “It’s good to be home!” in “Gotta Be Strong And Carry On” before the wanderlust grips him again “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More.” It’s an excellent journey and listeners are offered a set of snapshots to take as keepsakes along the way – but if those aren’t enough, the guitarist kicks in a few standards (a Robert Johnson song here, an Allman Brothers Band song there and a couple of others for good measure) to quench the old timers’ love of orthodoxy too. Overall, Solo Recordings makes for a decent portrait of a journeyman player willing to do what he has to and go where he needs to go to get noticed for his talent. There is, of course, no guarantee he will get noticed but, based on the chops and presentation he offers here, there’s no question that he is certainly deserving.
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