Hilltops

Big Black River

  • AllMusic Rating
    6
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

The Hilltops' second release showed a maturity in sound, while also highlighting more the differences in styles of the principal songwriters Hudson and Stirratt. Hudson's Americana and country-blues roots were becoming more obvious and pointing to the sound of his future band Blue Mountain, while Stirratt's, though still with a dose of country, continued in the more Replacements-style punk of Holler and '60s pop/rock (which would be more realized in his future project, the Autumn Defense). The instruments reflect the more ambitious songwriting -- fiddle, mandolin, and harmonica are mixed with acoustic and electric guitars, unlike the predominantly electric Holler. Hudson, in particular, shines on the album, from the hoedown of the lead-off "Double Nickel Breakdown" into empathetic tales of the down-and-out in "Broke Down and Busted" and "Dead End Street" (later redone with Blue Mountain, but better here) and the altered tuning title song, which is a charged and driving road song that's the centerpiece of the album. On top of that, he sings like a man possessed on the band's gutbucket blues cover of Robert Johnson's "Judgement Day," a track which shows the band at its rawest. "Blue," "Walk a Mile," and "Seafoam Green" from Holler were added to the re-release.

blue highlight denotes track pick