No, this is not your standard modern blues album, but then Michael Hill is anything but your standard modern blues musician. For one thing, Hill was born and raised in the South Bronx; for another, he's a longstanding member of the Black Rock Coalition, an organization supportive of black musicians who do their own thing rather than formula black pop. (For BRC members, alternative doesn't refer to grunge but to those forms of black music that commercial radio refuses to air -- jazz, blues, funk, black rock and conscious reggae being prominent among them -- all styles represented, by the way, in Michael Hill's diverse musical approach.)
Hill doesn't come to the blues from a typical place or with a typical agenda. Folk who'd rather not hear about the country's social problems when they listen to the blues may find some discomfort here. In addition to material that deals with the venerable themes of love and betrayal, there are songs about the plight of Vietnam era veterans, the murder rate among black teenagers, and the racially motivated violence that occurred in Howard Beach. Those with open ears will hear these topics essayed upon vocally and by Michael's phenomenal blues guitar playing. Possessing as sweet an electric slide hand as anybody going, as can be heard on Wrong Number, he can also cut rude, nasty and downright freakish when he wants to. Just check out the hellacious tones he summons up on Soul Emergency, splitting the difference between the overdriven amp sound of a '50s axe-maniac like Pat Hare and the stomp box extremism of Hill's friend Vernon Reid. The latter turns in a frightening hammer-on solo on his own Soldier's Blues , a previously unrecorded favorite of Hill's from Living Colour's club days.
Like any great musical form whose commercial heyday has peaked, the blues needs advocates who can enlighten diverse audiences to the majestic influence blues has had on every other form of popular music this century has produced. With his near twenty-year background playing in blues, funk, rock and roll and top 40 bar bands, Michael Hill and his Blues Mob offer something all those audiences can relate to without diluting his deep blues content. If blues to you means scorching guitar, heartfelt vocals, a grooving group and the vibe of life, Michael Hill's Blues Mob will jump out the urban bush and grab you with torrid musicianship, brass tack songwriting and a gritty sense of heart and humanity. If blues means something other than that to you, then you need to step off and let the doorknob hit'cha where the bulldog bit'cha.
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