I would suspect that the first response that a listener might make to Steve Hill’s new album, “The One-Man Blues Rock Band,” would be is: “that can’t possibly be one person.” Oh, yes, it is… Steve Hill is not only a hugely gifted and versatile guitarist, but he also plays every sound you hear on the album (or live, should you be fortunate enough to catch him in person). The album really does sound as though a full band is backing him up, but once you’re accustomed to this particular novelty factor, the truth remains that this is a powerhouse blues album start to finish, one of the most enjoyable live album I’ve heard in eons.
Recorded live at a performance last November in La Chapelle, Québec, the album captures a fiery, passionate evening of music that those in the audience were terribly fortunate to hear in person. The set list contains material mostly from Hill’s recent set of “Solo Recording” albums, but Hill has a twenty-plus year career from which he could have drawn songs. “Rhythm All Over” opens the album robustly, but the second track, “Go On,” begins with a fiery passage on the guitar that only begins to demonstrate what Hill can do.
Although Steve Hill has a number of awards to his name (a Juno in 2015, Maple Blues Awards, album of the year at the International Blues Challenge), wide name recognition perhaps yet eludes him – and this, I can’t understand at all. Someone who can present a live experience like “The One-Man Blues Rock Band” captures deserves to be heard even more widely, not only by blues fans but also by rock fans, to whom this album should also definitely appeal. Highly recommended.
We’re delighted that Steve was able to take time during his current tour of the UK (details here) to chat briefly with us about the project.
I confess to complete awe at your ability to multitask (speaking as someone who failed at pipe organ lessons because I couldn’t coordinate hands and feet)… have you always been able to play multiple instruments/sing simultaneously or was it a skill you needed time to acquire?
That’s something that takes time. I guess I started developing it by playing the piano, developing the independence of the left and right hand and then developed that on the guitar as well. I play finger style, so you also get to work the independence between the thumb and the other fingers and so on. Then when I added the drums it was only a matter of adapting that to the whole body. It was a gradual thing. First the bass drum, then after a while a high hat, then the snare and so on.
You’re opening up your tour in support of this new release in the UK, and you’ll be returning there later this fall – from what I’ve read, you’ve frequently toured there… what is it about the UK that keeps bringing you back?
There seems to be a deep love for the kind of music I do in the UK. In fact, the Brits are probably the reason why this type of music is still alive. Back in the 60s bands like the Stones and musicians like Eric Clapton gave Blues and Blues Rock exposure that the music never had before. They seem to enjoy what I do and I now have a good team working with me in the UK.
This was recorded in Québec City last November – what can you tell us about that venue and the night of this specific performance?
It’s a pretty small place but there’s always a good crowd whenever I play there. There’s something about the way it’s built that makes you feel really close to the audience.The main thing is that it was the last show of the tour having done 125 in 2017. I had also recorded 3 other shows prior to this one so I had no nervousness at all, I thought I had the album in the can already. That lack of pressure made me play better than I usually play when I know that I’m being recorded.
Did you have a live album in mind before now? If so, why now, and why this performance?
I’ve been recording shows for 20 years in the hope of releasing a live album! I was never fully satisfied with the results before. This is the first one that I released which I think says a lot about the album. It’s my best work so far I think.
Over the span of your career, you’ve played a number of different genres, but blues keeps drawing you back – what do you love most about it?
It’s the basis of everything that I do. There’s just something about it that grabs me. Always. I love all kinds of music but Blues and Blues-Rock is still what I prefer. It’s simple but it’s deep.
I was reading an interview you did with Métro in which you talked about your career in Québec, how you do well there but you’re not in the mainstream… you made a comparison to Eric Lapointe, who would be considered mainstream there. What about the rest of Canada? I see that when you return from the UK, you have several dates in Québec, one in Ottawa, one in New Brunswick… have you toured much in other parts of Canada? How do you see the blues scene in Québec versus other parts of the country?
I’ll be touring throughout Ontario, the prairies and the West Coast in the Fall. I’ve done a bunch of tours from Ottawa to Victoria, the last one being 2 years ago. The East Coast is somewhere I sadly don’t tour enough. Wish I could go there more often as there’s a lot of talent there and it seems that the only way to see Garrett Mason play is to go there! I think there’s a lot of great musicians all over the country. There’s definitely good stuff coming out of Montréal as you can see us winning a lot at the Maple Blues Awards lately. Good stuff out of Ottawa (Monkeyjunk), Toronto (Sean Pinchin, Samantha Martin, and many others) and the West Coast has The Harpooninst and the Axe Murderer and David Gogo. So a lot of talent all across the country but it’s hard to tour regularly from coast to coast.
You certainly need no instrumental help (since you have all the bases covered so skillfully) but are there musicians with whom you’d like to collaborate, given the chance?
Oh yes of course! Last time I saw Samantha Martin I told her I wanted to hire her band! I’d like to jam with Derek Trucks, Gary Clark Jr, Clapton…Would love to jam with Dead and Company!
For those folks who will be lucky enough to hear you live, does the album encapsulate what they can expect or will there still be some surprises?
The album is a fine example of what I do. That being said, there’s nothing like being there when it happens.