The one-man whirlwind is back. Steve is a powerhouse singer and player of guitar, harmonica and a special array of drums and cymbals: the difference being he does them all simultaneously, and most importantly to great effect. If you want more information, the details of Steve and his last album, Solo recordings Volume 3. You will also find a superb interview with Steve by our very own Liz Aiken on, Quel surprise (a French-Canadian reference there!), the interview page.
Hot on the heels of that last album, there is now a live release called, imaginatively, One-Man Blues Rock Band Live. In Steve’s own words, “I wanted to capture a live album that featured all the energy of my live shows. There are no overdubs on this live album… I play everything myself in real time. There are no tapes or loops. What you hear is what you get.”
So what do we get? Quite simply, we get a 14 track, barnstorming live album that shows what an amazing talent this man is. Please feel free to insert the inevitable “I cannot believe that is one man” after every track.
Kicking off, literally, with Rhythm All Over, a powerful blues-rock number with a great background riff. The solo duly arrives and is slinky, sensuous slide guitar that sends shivers down the spine. Go On is straight out of the Free songbook. This is definitely a Tons of Sobs quality piece of blues. The solo this time is proof that a guitar neck has 21 frets. The guitar introduction to The Collector will have you pulling Bonamassa comparisons out, but this is still pure Hill and the way he stabs slide runs into the riff is magical. Damned, with its staccato start, is another slice of solid blues-rock. A chugging riff backs the verses before an oh-so-clever solo with a combination of chords and picking which reflects the main melody. Tough Luck is the first drop in pace as Hill picks an introduction before the harmonica sets the melody. Echo guitar riffing introduces Never Is Such a long Time. A solo this time that has the genius of the bass line tagging along. Little Walter’s Hate to See You Go is such a faithful embodiment of the harp master’s 1955 original, with a slight nod to the Stones version, and yet it is heavy as a heavy thing. The guitar builds the atmosphere, pauses, then hits the main groove before Hill uses his guitar to fully engage with Walter’s harp phrasing from the original. It is just stunning. Emily is a mid paced blues song with more Free echoes crossed with a little twang of country. Nothing New is a harp driven, slow country blues, which has Hill sounding gruff, like a young Muddy Waters. Out of Phase keeps the pace slow and has Hill on acoustic and a slide solo of a Micky Moody quality and feel. Still Got it Bad with its Eastern influenced introduction is back to heavy, slow blues-rock of the highest order. The Ballad of Johnny Wabo could have been written in the 1940s with its expansive opening and stop-start patterns. Mid song, however, the pace suddenly picks up so we can have another great, Gallagher-esque slide solo with a bit of a ‘hoedown’ feeling thrown in. Full-fat rock hits next with Dangerous: a chugging riff and the vocals suggest Bonamassa, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The whole Hill experience closes with his version of the classic Hendrix song, Voodoo Child (Slight Return). I am of the unshakeable opinion a cover has to be different but still pay due homage and reverence to the original. Hill manages to satisfy the pedant in me. It is different; it is recognisable; it is faithful. The solos are all Hill, but with some of Hendrix’s original phrasing carefully built in. An excellent way to finish a great concert.
Now, I know you are wondering how in hell can he play all these instruments like that, Steve did share some of the mystique when interviewed by Liz.
The only criticism I can level with this album, are that the editing has removed any interaction with the crowd and, after some muddy sounding cheering, it always jumps straight into the next track. Personally, I like to hear the introductions and on-stage chatter and it is this omission, which spoils the flow of a superb album. Unless, of course, it was in French, then I wouldn’t have understood it anyway. In which case, better editing of the cheering after and before would still improve the overall live feel.
This album is a superb introduction to a consummate musician and will, I warn you now, lead you to seek out Hill’s other work and repeatedly say to yourself and everyone else…” how the hell does he do that!” Steve Hill: one man, one band, one live one-man band.
NINEdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Rhythm All Over (3:52)
- Go On (5:10)
- The Collector (3:51)
- Damned (3:47)
- Tough Luck (4:24)
- Never Is Such A Long Time (6:37)
- Hate To See You Go (5:22)
- Emily (4:09)
- Nothing New (4:23)
- Out Of Phase (4:21)
- Still Got It Bad (5:30)
- The Ballad Of Johnny Wabo (5:22)
- Dangerous (3:57)
- Voodoo Child (Slight Return) (7:32)
Performed, produced and mixed by Steve Hill.
Recorded by Stephan Ritch at La Chapelle, Québec, Qc, Can. on November 30, 2017.
Mixed at Wabo Deluxe Studio, Trois-Rivières, Qc, Can.
Transfer to tape and other analogue fairy dusting by Nic Jodoin at Valentine Studio, LA.
Mastered by Marc Theriault at Le Lab Mastering, Montreal, Canada.
FOH: Marc Desjarlais.
Backline Technician: Carl Turgeon.
Graphic Design by Amplifié.
All Songs by Steve Hill except The Collector, Still Got It Bad, Emily, Dangerous (S. Hill, J. Parlett), Hate To See You Go (Walter Jacobs) and Voodoo Child (Slight Return) (J. Hendrix).