No Label Records – 2016
12 tracks; 50 minutes
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.