Juno Award-winning multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and one-man-band Steve Hill rocks out all over his new record Dear Illusion.
The set is out on No Label Records and finds the unstoppable Hill getting down on a fresh set of material that was originally supposed to come out in April of 2020 but Covid put a stop to that. The silver lining to this particular cloud is that Hill was able to keep working on the album, refining it into the state it’s in now. Hill is a beyond-talented guitarist, singer, drummer, harmonica player, songwriter, and producer with a sound and vision unlike anything you’ve ever heard.
I’ve been a Steve Hill fan for years, but I’ve only seen him once. Back in the spring of 2018 the Ontario native opened for King King. Upon watching his show I wrote on these pages: “Steve Hill is better than good. He’s something more like a force of nature. Resistance at this point is futile. In a year everyone will claim they were on board all along, so you might as well be now.”
Which would have been fine but the pandemic rather stalled things, but we’re back on track now with “Dear Illusion”, but – and I hope you were paying attention – there’s a couple of things related to that intro that I need to catch you up on. First what Hill describes as “a version” of the record was completed in February 2020. Yep. So he didn’t release it, instead changed it.
Canadian musician Steve Hill has, over the last ten years, made a multiple Maple and Juno award winning name for himself as a one-man-blues-rock-band via his multi-instrumentation solo shows, three acclaimed & notable Solo Recordings albums and a live release that captured the essence and energy of his performances.
More lately however a pseudo-cinematic side of Steve Hill was heard on 2021’s Desert Trip, an acoustic/ California country influenced album inspired by the Desert Trip Festival of 2016, following which Hill rented a camper van to criss-cross California, camping (and writing) in the natural wilds of places such as Death Valley, Big Sur and Yosemite.
There’s no doubt about it, watching Steve Hill play is mesmerising. Like most hot-shot axe-slingers, he started off playing guitar in a blues band at home in Canada, although he can get a tune or a rhythm out of almost anything that can be plucked, blown or hit. When he went solo, he went all the way, eventually jettisoning the band completely, going on stage and playing everything himself, literally. He has a separate pickup under the lower strings of his guitar, which routes through an octaver to a bass amp, so he thumbs the bass notes while picking the guitar at the same time. He plays a kick drum, a snare and a hi-hat with his feet, and plays another hi-hat and a crash cymbal with a drumstick fixed to his guitar headstock. Various other percussion instruments are fixed to parts of his kit or his body; a maraca, a tambourine, a can full of coins taped to his foot. Oh, and he has a harmonica frame round his neck too. He has released several CDs of this incredible solo work, but you still won’t believe it until you see it.
For years this Canadian singer/guitarist was known for his blues rock one-man band antics. For latest album Dear Illusion he teamed up with a horn section, reaping this toe-tapping, 70s-fried earworm that fans of Whiskey Myers and The Sheepdogs should get a kick out of. “It took me a long time to finish,” says Steve. “I started working on it six years ago after the Trump election. It’s about alternate truth, but it’s also about social media and our addiction to it. It’s also about pretending that everything is alright when it’s not.”
With a solid grip on acoustic blues underneath and a consistent show of song crafting flair, Steve Hill’s current offering commands well deserved attention throughout the set. The Montreal-based guitarist’s muscular, measured vocals match well with a string of originals and collaborations marked by compelling moods and meaty lyrics.