The question of genre can only be answered via a compromise of some sort when it comes to this artist. In the early stages of guitarist Dudley Hill's career, he was known as a bright-eyed young man who had sought out one of the great legends of Texas fiddling, Benny Thomasson, and become one of his most sensitive accompanists. By the time the '90s rolled around, however, Hill was much more known as a so-called retro-swing acoustic guitarist in the Django Reinhardt mold, give or take a few fingers. Since in the public's perception it is more normal for progressive bluegrass guitarists to pick some swing jazz then it is the other way around, Hill's heavy involvement with old-time music seems to have basically kept him from being totally recognized as a jazz guitarist.
His early album effort, From a Northern Family, in the old-time style showed an incredible amount of spirit, the picking clean, snappy, and a good deal more aggressive than the usual old-time revival project. The presence of Thomasson on fiddle was of course an asset, as he is simply one of the great players on this instrument. The album also featured many of Hill's other solid collaborations with Northwest players, including the members of the Tall Timber String Band. Even the Texas fiddler was technically a Northwest player by the time Hill got to him. The man whose fiddle sound has become one of the trademark approaches to the fiddle in the biggest of states relocated to Kalama, WA, in the mid-'70s, less than 100 miles away from where Hill resided.
If there have been questions about Hill's preferred musical identity, there has never been a mystery about his home base. He has always been identified with the Seattle and Washington state music scenes, and has been praised by not only old-time music virtuosos such as Thomasson, whose gig requires keeping people dancing all night, but by pianist George Winston, whose new age music seems to have quite a different effect. Hill began playing guitar when he was quite young. Some budding musicians become interested in styles of music that are not exactly popular amongst their peer group, and this is exactly what happened with Hill and his fanatic interest in Western swing and old-time music. While for everyone else in his crowd it was a case of "Light My Fire," Hill was more a "Molly Put the Kettle On" type. Nonetheless, he picked up an electric guitar and tried to humor his friends, playing lead in some garage bands for a few years. The longish guitar solo spots that were the norm in this era helped him develop some sort of competence on the fingerboard. He joined the Navy, and upon getting out found himself being drawn into the country music camp again. Through this he started meeting various musicians from the Northwest U.S. who were getting into all the different traditional styles, from Appalachian bluegrass to Texas fiddle to Canadian reels. Hill dove into this scene, and the From a Northern Family album was kind of a summation of these playing relationships. Inevitably Hill would focus a great deal of attention on his relationship with Thomasson, whom he first heard via the classic County albums, sides which he later claimed to have played until the vinyl was practically transparent. Ecstatic when he found out about the Texan's relocation to a town not too distant, Hill jumped at the first chance to try and meet Thomasson at a contest the fiddler was involved in. The event was held at a high school. Hill found Thomasson in a hallway and approached him, completely awestruck. He worked up the nerve to ask to play a tune with Thomasson, and the Texan became entranced with the young man's playing style, particularly the amount of feeling such a young player was bringing to the old-time tunes. A deep and warm playing and personal relationship developed between them. Besides Thomasson's performances on Hill's album, the guitarist repaid the debt by providing backup on Thomasson's cooking CD Say Old Man Can You Play the Fiddle, a collection of casual recordings from the '70s released in 1999 by Voyager.
In the early '90s, Hill began a duo relationship with fellow guitarist Neil Andersson, whose musical background was also a trail leading back into a garage, although in the case of Andersson the group was actually a pretty well known pre-punk band, the Wailers. The two pickers got into a comfortable duo groove focusing around jazz and blues, but the addition of some other players to the circle led to the formation of the Pearl Django band, often described as a gypsy jazz outfit. Other members have included Shelley Park, David Firman, and Rick Leppanen. This group released five CDs between 1999-2001 and is a regular attraction at both clubs and festivals. Hill also plays with several other similar outfits such as Jon Belcher and Savoy Swing and Lance Buller and the Monarchs.