The O2 Academy in Islington can be a really unforgiving place for a support artist unless they have something special to offer and Steve Hill most definitely had that ‘something’ about him.
He is that really rare thing, a musician that plays as a ‘one man band’ without being compromised by having to play the guitar, sing and play percussion at the same time and it is no insult to him to say that I was amazed not to see a bass player and drummer step out to take their bows with him after a superb little set of rocking Blues.
Back at the turn of the seventies, Wishbone’s then revolutionary twin lead guitar line up altered the conventional wisdom of how a rock band was constructed. In his own way, support act Steve Hill was equally innovative. The White Stripes and Royal Blood may have brought duos into the mainstream, but the Canadian went a step further as a one man band, and no acoustic troubadour but a full on rocker complete with denim cut off and wild hair and beard.
On St. Patrick’s Day , especially in Montreal – it is easy being Green and it’s even easier being Steve Hill.
The Trois Rivieres and Quatre ‘Solo Recordings’ native is normally used to the ‘ it ain’t easy being Green ‘ moniker. Bucking precedent in recent years and pioneering the ‘one man band ‘ genre single handily made him a sort of ‘musical abnolity’. After all – ‘ it ain’t easy‘ being a vocalist, drummer, guitar, bass and harmonica player on stage now is it ?
It may have been a bitterly cold, windy day, but Steve Hill quickly cranked up the heat inside the Record Centre Saturday, March 11 for a capacity crowd at the Vinyl Release of his Solo Recordings Vol. 3.
He is fresh off a 30-date European tour opening for Brit classic rock band Wishbone Ash (covering Germany, Austria, Poland, The Netherlands, Switzerland, and France.) Winner of the 2015 Juno Blues Album of the Year, Hill is a well known favourite of the Canadian summer festival circuit, including the Montreal Jazz Festival, Ottawa Blues Festival, Mont Tremblant International Blues Festival, Vancouver International Jazz Festival, Winnipeg JazzFest, Kitchener Blues Festival and lots more. With fans crowding around the intimate stage area, Record Centre owner John Thompson prefaced the in-store appearance by showing off the newly issued vinyl album, which features detailed custom silkscreened artwork on side 4, by Ottawa artist Sarah Pakuts.
In his native Canada Steve Hill has established quite a reputation as a one-man band, receiving nominations for Juno awards as well as winning the 2013 IBC award for best independent album for the first of his solo recordings. This is volume 3 in the series and is literally all Steve, no overdubs, no extra personnel. But do not go thinking that this is another solo acoustic album, as Steve plays plenty of heavy guitar, accompanying himself on two pedal drums and assorted percussion, including some hit by a stick taped to the neck of his guitar! At times the sound is almost heavy rock, as on opener “Damned”, or churning blues-rock like “Dangerous” though there are some acoustic tracks, including the fetching love song “Emily” on which Steve plays some delicate guitar or “Slowly Slipping Away” where Steve also plays some harp and provides a very convincing vocal on a song that takes as much from the folk tradition as the blues. However, Steve’s stock-in-trade on this album is the heavier tunes and “Rhythm All Over” is perhaps the pick of those with Steve playing a throbbing bass line as well as the core riff. Steve closes the album with the moody “Walking Grave” which features some torrid slide work and some dark lyrics: “I rise up from the dead, let the seed become a flower”.
Most of the songs are originals, either written by Steve alone or in partnership with J. Parlett. There are three covers which provide an insight into Steve’s influences. A medley of “Still A Fool/Rollin’ Stone” provides a gritty take on two of Muddy’s best known tunes and Steve repeats the trick with “Rollin’ & Tumblin’/Stop Breaking Down”, here credited as ‘Traditional’ though most blues fans would probably see these as Robert Johnson tunes. Steve’s slide work at the start is terrific before he picks up a frantic pace on his kick drums to drive the song along. In complete contrast Steve’s version of “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad” is a lovely acoustic reading of the song that takes the tune back to its country/folk/blues origins, different from the Grateful Dead version that most of us will know – another standout track.
Steve’s ability to produce such a rich sound all alone is impressive and this album offers the variety of both acoustic and full-on electric music so will contain something for all tastes.
Since the March 4th release of his long-awaited Solo Recordings Volume 3, Montreal’s one-man blues band Steve Hill has nabbed the attention of DJs, reviewers and thousands of new fans around the world. He recently revealed a video for the single “Dangerous” that is closing in on 900 thousand views on Facebook and has been shared over 14 thousand times.
Steve Hill, known for his impressive one man band live show, brings this concept to the studio once again on his latest release Solo Recordings Volume 3. His modus operandi is to perform all of the instruments at the same time but this isn’t some novelty act. Steve writes, records, and performs very soulful blues based rock, and Americana in a serious way and unless you see him live or watch one of his videos, you would have no idea of his one man band mastery.
Montreal Bluesman Steve hill recently launched Solo Recordings Volume 3 – his 10th record – and it sounds remarkable. From blues to hard rock or country, the mix of these influences blend perfectly together in a way that is rather satisfying.