Michael Hill

Electric Storyland Live

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New York isn't the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of blues singing -- jazz musicians playing 12-bar themes, certainly, but not blues singing in the usual Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, or Houston sense. There isn't a law against bluesmen coming from the Big Apple; it's just that the five boroughs are better known for jazz, hip-hop, and salsa than they are for blues singing. But if talented blues singers can be born in Sweden (Sven Zettenberg) or Yugoslavia (Ana Popovic), there is no reason why the Apple shouldn't participate -- and New Yorker Michael Hill's participation has been quite valuable. Recorded live at two different NYC venues in the early 2000s, this double-CD paints a consistently attractive picture of what Hill proudly describes as his "New York City blues." The singer/guitarist is far from a blues purist; not everything he does has 12 bars, and Hill has been greatly influenced by rock, soul and funk. In fact, the title Electric Storyland Live acknowledges his creative debt to Jimi Hendrix, who was arguably the first heavy metal artist -- this release's title is a play on Hendrix's Electric Ladyland. But the blues are Hill's foundation, and he always brings a wealth of blues feeling to the table regardless of whether or not something has 12-bar blues. Hill maintains the feeling of the blues whether he is being influenced by reggae on "Grandmother's Blues," hinting at African pop on "Blessings," or incorporating elements of the Isley Brothers and the Average White Band on "Something in the Sky," which has a '70s-like sound but is a commentary on the aftermath of September 11, 2001. A consistently rewarding document of the Michael Hill Blues Mob's live show, this double-CD is enthusiastically recommended to anyone who is seeking something fresh and challenging from the blues.

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