Steve Gilbert – Hempstead Highway | Album Review

stevegilbertcdSteve Gilbert – Hempstead Highway


CD: 13 Songs, 56:35 Minutes       

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock

The world of music publishing, in the era of the Internet, has become an insoluble paradox. On the one hand, it’s made “getting on the playing field” much easier. One need not have the money or prestige to impress established labels, which often don’t accept unsolicited material (read: material from artists they don’t know, and aren’t proven money-makers yet.) On the other hand, it’s made the music business ever so much more difficult in terms of publicity and promotion. With so many talented artists out there, how does one make oneself known? Houston’s Steve Gilbert has one answer, in the form of his debut CD.

Steve Gilbert and his self-published blues-rock CD Hempstead Highway have already received some rave reviews. According to his website, “Steve Gilbert began playing blues music around the Houston area while still in high school, sitting in at clubs and icehouses before he was old enough to drink.  He continued his blues education while living in Austin in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  After a stint in Los Angeles, playing in popular roots and alt-country bands in gigs all over Southern California, he came back to Houston in the late 1990s and returned to playing the music he loves, the blues.  He helped form the H-Town Jukes soon thereafter, and the band brought its old-school blues sound all over the Gulf Coast while putting out a CD to critical acclaim in 2010.  Now out on his own, Steve Gilbert continues to bring the blues back home, whether performing in a solo acoustic setting or with the Steve Gilbert Band.  Steve’s debut solo CD, Hempstead Highway, was released in March 2016.  It immediately appeared on RMRs Contemporary Blues CD chart and has garnered rave reviews in the US and internationally.”

With Gilbert on vocals, guitars and handclaps are Jeffrey Hamby on bass guitar; Carl Owens on drums; William Hollis on Hammond organ; Eugene “Sparetime” Murray on vocals and background vocals; Kevin “Snit” Fitzpatrick on acoustic guitar; Sherrie Lynn Mayes on tambourine and handclaps; and Miranda Herbert, David Silverman, and Bella Adela on handclaps.

Want proof of his devotion to the genre, and one of its masters? Check this original tune out:

Track 04: “Mr. Joe Guitar Hughes” – Every artist pays tribute to his/her mentor at least once in life, whether through song or otherwise. This is a name-dropping ditty, where Gilbert mentions several blues artists to prove that, yes, this is indeed a blues track: “Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, T-Bone Walker and Gatemouth Brown – you put them all together, Lord, and you’ve got that [incomprehensible] sound. Cutting down its shadings, when a bright red suit, ‘cause nobody played the blues like Mr. Joe Guitar Hughes.”

Even though Gilbert plays halfway-decent electric guitar, his flat, nasal vocals and workmanlike delivery don’t inspire. Even on over-covered covers like Paul Butterfield’s “Lovin’ Cup,” the results are unsatisfying. Steve may play and sing the blues, but yours truly gets the feeling he doesn’t feel the blues. On eight original tracks and five covers, he displays his musical roots to medium-key effect.

Hempstead Highway may be too flat and featureless for some, but Gilbert’s fans will love it!

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