One man band Steve Hill hails from Canada, but you may have caught him supporting Wishbone Ash’s Martin Turner late last year. If you missed him, he’ll be back this way again in May as special guest on King King’s latest round of concerts and selected dates with Danny Bryant.
It’s most likely a sight worth seeing: multi-tasking by playing guitar, using his feet to play bass drum, snare drum, hi-hats, with a drum stick fused to the head of his guitar, reaching out for any percussion handy and singing away at the same time. Probably the nearest thing the UK has produced in this manner was back when Jon Fiddler fronted Medicine Head.
The Solo Recordings has proved popular in Hill’s homeland and further afield, and this third volume finds him self-penning or covering a total of 12 tracks. Opening number ‘Damned’ establishes a pattern and the school of thought from which many of the up tempo numbers will follow, think Savoy Brown and Foghat English bands who made it big in the States, alongside the ersatz Fleetwood Mac that was Stretch. Hill’s voice is pitched in that timbre and the dirty echoed boogie of this number services the fundamental but fun rhythm section available to him, as he expanding on the song’s main riff and delivers some impressive lead work.
‘Dangerous’ is more mid-west meets a late night California night rock, with a catchy chorus that treads into Bad Company territory. As does the rocking ‘Rhythm All Over’ with its jabbing riff and turnaround chord section, while the slide solo is straight out of Foghat’s greatest hits. Meanwhile ‘Still A Fool & A Rollin’ Stone’ finds him hammering on his guitar and shrieking away before busking drum take us into the more familiar sounds of this Muddy Waters cover. ‘Can’t Take It With You’ is also in the style of that old blues master with large echoed wiry guitar howls present before moving into rather nice mid paced guitar walk. While cover ‘Rollin’ & Tumblin’/Stop Breaking Down’ is faithful again right down to the slide guitar.
It’s when he picks up an acoustic six string that I’m most impressed I have to say. ‘Slowly Slipping Away’ is the first one on the record and enters at just the right time to change the pace. A more mellow voice present on such tracks, his vocals are more akin to fellow Canadian Gordon Lightfoot here. This particular song features a particularly sweet harmonica solo too. He wails hard on that mouth organ during ‘Smoking Hot Machine’ before slowing it down to a fuzzy downer blues before building momentum again wherein fast harmonica runs jump over a crashing hi-hat beat.
But let’s get back to those acoustic numbers. ‘Troubled Times’ has some really cool fluid finger picking going on down in this folk blues tune, and the use of echo is really affective, and the overall impression impressive. While he opts to play chords on ‘Emily’ and this rhythmic bluesy shuffle wouldn’t be out place on an album by The Faces. It figures a trucking song would be needed, and Hill offers ‘Going Down The Road Feeling Bad’ that while primarily blues bases also has something of classical lullaby feel to it.
The album finishes with dirty fizzed blues rock and the hard hitting bass drum kick of ‘Walking Grave’. Hill opts for a deeper voice cut here, and while it has to be said he’s not a great singer he give it the emotive range to carry the song. Guitar wise it’s time for some elongated pyrotechnics of the Hendrix/Beck/Gallagher howling variety, speeds up to boogie and wailing away until it reaches its climax.
The Solo Recordings Volume 3 doesn’t break any new ground musically, but there’s nothing broke here either, and tracks like ‘Troubled Times’ deserve to be heard. Live Steve Hill is likely to mighty entertaining performing in a guest spot.