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Robert Hill: Press

(Jan 9, 2012)
From The Netherlands mag, ROOTSTIME, (roughly translated)

"Have Slide Will Travel", Robert Hill's last album, barrel are different slide guitar styles together and characterizes his sound; his acoustic and electric blues mix with American roots music, funk ("The Robusticator"), old school R&R ("Bubba's Boogie"), country blues cowboy swing ("Home Town Blues") and even zydeco ("My Babe" - with the zydeco accordion Labriola of Art). In one number ("Alma De Una Mujer")chooses almost eight minutes long for cumbia, which he the listener a complex rhythmic mixture of Spanish music and African music enjoyment.

Each song on the album is separate and speaks for itself. "The Good, The Bad & The Unattractive" seems to be from a spaghetti western to be plucked and winks clearly to Enrico Morricone, "Bayou Bartholomew" is slide blues with hypnotic influences, "Gimme Some A THAT" a funky intermezzo and "Evolution Blues" what more lived through city blues.

For a blues man his technique, style and rhythm is very important. But still feel it with Robert Hill even more. Hill explains in a very personal way his emotions in his sound, where diversity has always been and where the asset is the involvement of the listener is answered. If slide guitarist is Robert Hill the musician who the strings of his guitar can singing.
Nice review of my latest cd, "Have Slide Will Travel"
Robert Hill talks about Have Slide Will Travel
by Eric Petersen on August 22, 2015 in RUST magazine

"When you talk about Blues Men you have the usual criteria of technique, style and timing, and Robert Hill excels on all those levels on Have Slide Will Travel, but what makes him such a great artist, and this such a great album is the human wisdom that comes through between the notes. And this wisdom takes many shapes and colors. Robert Hill has the ability to be relevant, intelligent and sympathetic in an amazing variety of moods and emotions and this collection of songs delivers a stellar diversity of thoughts and expressions all picked and plucked with style and confidence.

Each song is it’s own creation and stands alone. Whether tearing it up on a track like Evolution Blues or slowing it down on something like Alma De Una Mujer this awarded musician is completely at peace with his creative ideas and completely at home in the recording process. Recently we wrote about Tom Principato and what we commented about him was that he had the ability to create a narrative and to perfectly fulfill the listener’s expectations as the song unfolded. Similarly, Robert Hill’s ability to tell a story with his music, and to give you the feeling of having accomplished a journey through his music is simply superb. And these journeys have such different feelings and spaces… it’s a truly brilliant musician that can inhabit so many environments and to meet the challenges of saying such different things. This album almost feels like a collection of musicians rather than just one, but Robert Hill keeps the whole ship on an even keel by quiet mastery of his captainship."

We were so interested in this artist we reached out to him to tell us a little about Have Slide Will Travel in his own words:

RUST: Robert, thanks for making such a sweet album. Is there a story behind it? How long have you had these songs awaiting the light of day?

RH: Four of the songs I had cut the basic tracks for live-in-the-studio as far back as 5 or more years ago. They languished on the shelf for a long time, until I signed a deal with a production house to do several slide tracks. I had a deadline, so this lit a fire under me to finish these, and write some new material. I would write and record a new one, and then immediately start on something new in a different direction. Most of the songs were written and recorded in about a 9 month period. Being under the gun is a good thing for me.

RUST: The diversity of what we hear is tremendous. Did you always intend to move through so many moods in this group of songs or did ideas emerge as you recorded?

RH: I wanted to touch on most of the genres that I like, but I also made a conscious effort to break some new ground. To me, that was the best part – pushing myself to write and perform something that I’ve never done before, and not just keep repeating myself. My first two cds were fairly diverse, as well. I’ve always liked bands that were diverse and musically deep.

RUST: No man is an Island, though Robin Williams would comment that some men are peninsulas, who are some of the other musicians at work here?

RH: A lot of these guys are well-known around NY/NJ area. I’ve played with bassist Mark Murphy,(Guy Davis,Levon Helm, among many others), off and on for a number of years. He’s just got an excellent ear and touch on the upright bass, and bows as well, which adds a great texture. Same goes for Jerry Krenach,(Chris Whitley, among many others), on the drums – perfect timing and plays for the song. Bob Hoffnar, from the band Hem, played some great pedal steel on one of the songs. Derrik Jordan, a virtuoso of many genres,and composer/performer with a number of cds to his credit, contributed on “My Babe”. Multi-instrumentalist, Art Labriola, laid down some nice accordian. I was lucky to snag local NJ legend, Frank Pagano, (Blondie, Donovan, Donald Fagen, Lesley Gore, Al Green, Levon Helm, Doctor John, Gladys Knight, Al Kooper, Darlene Love, just to name a very few), on drums for one song. I recently started playing some with bassist,Doug O’Connor, (McMule, (Whitney Road), and he did a great job on “The Robusticator” and “Alma De Una Mujer,” the latter of which he put some real thought and work into. I was also very glad to get Steve Jordan, (formerly from my hometown of North Little Rock, AR, now living outside Madrid), to do percussion on “Alma De Una Mujer”. I recently returned from tour of Spain with Steve on drums.

RUST: Is there anybody that really helped you get this album done that deserves a little credit and appreciation?

RH: Eric Puente on drums and percussion. I would have never finished this cd without his tireless help,creativity,and desire to get it right. Able to take on anything I threw at him, and do it with a healthy sense of humor, which kept it all fun and loose. Just a great player and person.

RUST: Can you tell us a little about your gear kit for Have Slide Will Travel? Any secret weapons you brought into the studio?

RH: Well, I’ve never been too interested in pedals, etc. I subscribe to the school of thought that all you really need is the right guitar and the right amp. Bascially, a little reverb, maybe a little delay, and once in a while some amp tremelo. I used a Mesa Boogie Mark IV for some of the guitar parts. On a lot of the other electric guitar parts, I ended up just recording the guitar clean and using a few amp plugins in ProTools. Saved a lot of time, made mixing more flexible, and kept my family from killing me. I used a National Radiotone for a lot of the acoustic slide parts. For the electric guitars, a ’74 Strat, an early 90’s Fernandes Strat, a G&L Legacy and a G&L ASAT.

RUST: Thanks so much, last question, we’ve been seeing a phenomenal expansion of the companies making guitars and the kinds (and quality) of instruments available. Is there any make or model that might be on your wish list, or that you might recommend to an aspiring player?

RH: I’ve always been a Fender guy, but I mainly play G&L guitars now. Their Strat model, The Legacy, and their Tele, The ASAT are really solid, well-built, and to my ears, sound better than a lot of the Fender stuff now. The pickups are excellent, and they have a lot of options available. I also like to take inexpensive guitars, like my Fernandes,and change the pickups and other things to get a unique sound. I would say don’t get too bogged down with effects and gear – it really boils down to what’s coming out those fingers.
Excellent and entertaining interview by Michael Limnios, the Greek Ambassador to The Blues Hall Of Fame. Touches on early years playing in various Arkansas bands,moving to New York City,up to the present. Worth the read!
Review of "My Corner" on the No Depression website
"Hill's aggressive slide playing over a rough-and-ready backing track makes us want to slam down some moonshine and start a ballroom blitz. It's intense and relentless, and Hill's slide tone is fat, edgy and fabulous."
Guitar Player magazine

I was fortunate to win First Place, with my instrumental, "Slide On Rye", in a co-sponsored contest by Guitar Player and Broadjam, showcasing outstanding guitar playing.
It was an international competition with winners also from the U.S., The Russian Federation, Argentina, and Brazil.
Guitar Player magazine
"Robert Hill's impressive slide technique draws liberally from the late Lowell George of Little Feat (with a little Ry on the side) on an original tune called 'Slide on Rye.' "
Guitar Player Magazine
"Versatile guitarist who uses layering, tone, texture and good taste to keep the listener riveted. Good singer, mean slide player- here's to more efforts like this from Hill."
"A sparkling effort that shows his immense talent as a slide guitarist. Hill's music draws from the Little Feat and Radiators mold, and it stands favorably with those great artists. There's a funky Feat feel to "Rose City" and the passionate "Sweet Salvation," while he rips up a slide storm in the rollicking instrumentals, "Slide On Rye" and "Crater Of Diamonds." The best cut, though, is the eight minute "Workingman's Curse," which has Hill stretching out with some dazzling playing."
summer - Relix Magazine
...As if folks hadn’t already gotten their money money’s worth, our featured act of the night, Robert Hill and his band mates just blew us away. Accompanied by the superb journeyman bassist Mark Murphy and the talented Joanne (what a set of pipes) Lediger lending supporting vocals, Bob mesmerized us with his unique slide guitar technique and baritone voice, slipping flawlessly from steamroller blues to acoustic ballad and back again. The author was particularly impressed by his intermingling of what were almost ethereal instrumentals (his stand up bassist employing a bow to enhance the effect).. In contrast were the barrelhouse blues numbers where Ms. Lediger’s vocals were a standout. It seemed that each number literally brought the house down.
This is a review about a great venue we played at the El Paso in Piñera, Cudillero, Spain.
These are blues lovin' folks- we had an absolute blast- great, great people- a special thanks to Rafa and Pau!
"To live in the outlaying districts of the Asturian musical scene has never been a problem for the room «The Step» (Piñera, Cudillero). The isolation with regard to the main downtowns has given place to the birth of an independent space in which there are piled up tens musical performances of bands of major or less projection. Joint «The Big Trouble Band» and the vallisoletanos «Bluedays« join today and on Saturday, respectively, to this peculiar cast(list).

Rafa García, alma mater of the room, projects its passion for the musician in this project who for many(many people) supposes an oasis in the desert. «The step» takes almost two decades on the foot of the highway. As the city of the one that takes its name, it is a question of a transit place. A stage in which musicians come from quite Spain and even from the foreigner have left its trace in direct in that per moments it goes so far as to crack the existing physical and mental border between public and artists.« All the musicians who happen(pass) somewhere here want to repeat», mentions Rafa often. The true thing is that the history of this room is signed by figures of the size of Carvin Jones, a born expert(ace) of six ropes in Texas; Robert Hill and its own blues of the old school; the New Yorkers The Healers; Tonky of the Rock, living legend of the national scene; or Edu Bighands, enclosed whom one of its direct ones has gone so far as to record in «The Step». Musicians of both shores(banks) of the puddle joined by the same conductive thread: an excessive passion for the sound blues.

Today, from the midnight, the rhythm will settle once again in «The Step»."
North Little Rock native Robert Hill played in numerous Arkansas groups, including party band The Blue Mambas, before moving to New York many years ago. There, he honed his skills with NYC band The Bluesicians before forming the first incarnation of the Robert Hill Band in the 1990s and releasing the band’s self-titled debut CD to good reviews. Eventually, Hill moved to a stripped-down acoustic power-duo with drummer Jerry Krenach which played around the NYC metro area for a number of years, eventually welcoming in Mark Murphy on upright bass. Recently, the band has been joined by Art Labriola on keyboards, accordian and pedal steel, and Joanne Lediger on vocals. Hill describes the band as a “musical volcano.”

“Think Mount St. Helens, but a lot more fun,” he says, crediting much of that sound to his Arkansas roots – an area which he says “possesses a unique gumbo of musical styles: urban and deep Delta blues, bluegrass, oldtime country, zydeco, ragtime, cowpunk, gospel, even a polka or two in spots. When you mix it all together, they just call it rock and roll.”

The band has opened for Levon Helm, John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Chris Smither, Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, The Tony Trischka Band, Rick Danko, Rory Block, Debbie Davies, and many others.

Hill’s song, "Long Rain," was used in a Smirnoff Ice commercial that aired during the 2002 Super Bowl. His instrumental "Slide On Rye" was used in an episode of the TV series, “Queer Eye For The Straight Guy.” Hill also composed the soundtrack for an award-winning PBS film documentary, "Burley," the story of a North Carolina tobacco farmer.
Excellent write-up by Jack Hill,(no relation). With a humorous recollection or two, this article ties some interesting background info with current musical endeavors and achievements by the guitarist/singer/songwriter. Well worth reading!
" While we’re talking about local musicians’ musicians, singersongwriter-guitarist Robert Hill has lived in New York for the past 20 years, but he grew up in North Little Rock and still draws on the state for inspiration. His excellent blues album My Corner (SOR, $12.97) — which features some fantastic acoustic guitar work as well as Hill’s crafty rootsy originals — has been in rotation in my car for a couple of months now.
(The CD’s packaging deserves a mention: Hill says the sepiatone photograph that adorns the front cover is of his father as a boy, circa 1930, outside a Hot Springs barbecue stand. The back cover photograph dates from the early 1900s; it’s of Hill’s grandfather in the doorway of his Pine Bluff advertising company.)"
"Rainbow Come Down On Me; Mix Myself a Perfect Dream."

I'd heard the opening track "My Corner" before I received this beautiful CD to review. I was struck by how the harmonica solo at the end of the song really managed to paint a picture of the narrator. When I heard that solo in my imagination I could see this lost and tired man dancing on a dark street, a bottle in his hand and his eyes turned towards the heavens. Oftentimes when songwriters attempt to tackle the lost characters in society they either over- dramatize or only brush the surface. Robert Hill puts flesh on the bones of society's underdogs in his songs. Whether he's writing about a tragic homeless guy, a simple country woman, or the children of Liberia, Hill shines light on the humanity of the characters in his songs, reminding us that we are all related. Listening to the CD I see the world through the characters' eyes and feel it through their hearts. The music and production never get in the way of the story, and there's an interesting mix of modern and old-timey sounds. Musically the songs incorporate influences from the entire range of this wonderfully colorful music called Americana. Hill's guitar, resonator, and harmonica playing shine without getting in the way of the songs, and the CD even includes two instrumentals "Smokestack," and "Forbidden Fruit," which we'll probably be hearing during the closing credits of a movie by this time next year. All around "My Corner" is an honest, hopeful, reckless adventure in what it is to be human. Stand-out tracks for me are "Blessed Dream," one of my favorite new songs in several years, "Smokestack," and the closing song "Washing Away."
Fred Gillen Jr. - (Nov 27, 2007)
Hill's 1999 self-titled debut was an electric affair, a solid blues-rock effort with two or three songs displaying a penchant for Middle Eastern-accented arrangements á la Led Zeppelin or Derek Trucks. For his sophomore outing, the award-winning Arkansas singer/songwriter/guitarist takes a folk-rock route, choosing largely acoustic arrangements.

The emphasis this time is on storytelling. There's the autobiographical "Another Chapter," about love found, lost and regained; the tributary "Angelina"; the reflective "Different Faiths"; the biopic "Country Soul"; and the condemnatory "First to Fight."

There are instrumentals ("Smokestack" and "Forbidden Fruit") and even one of those Zeppelinesque tunes ("Blessed Dream"). But what really hits home is the tear-jerker title track, told from the point of view of a man relating how he came to be homeless.

Tying it all together is Hill's authoritative guitar work, including occasional Dobro and mandolin and plenty of slide. Support work by pedal steel guitarist Bob Hoffnar and background singer Joanne Lediger (Stir Fried, McMule) top it all off nicely.
The colleagues from Guitar Player praised Robert Hill’s "impressive slide technique" and they don’t do such ratings without good reason. And indeed, Robert Hill, who was born in North Little Rock, Arkansas, has a lot to offer with his acoustic as well as with the electric slide guitar. But that isn’t all. Robert Hill tells stories and he does so with an intensive and rock influenced voice. Blues and roots-rock are the main specialties in the oeuvre of Robert Hill who can be heard live mainly in the New York area. One seems to find influences from Little Feat to Lynyrd Skynyrd. But Hill keeps the blues always in sight, reminds of Chris Whitley’s melodic times as well as John Hiatt. On this album, he is accompanied by powerful musicians that fit perfectly into the concept. On the instrumental "Slide on Rye" Hill sounds like Sonny Landreth did in his best moments. Another very good song is "Workingman’s Curse", that lasts for nearly eight minutes and could have been written by Bruce Springsteen. People who like honest roots rock must have this album!
August 2001 - Concerto Magazine (Europe)
Guitarist/singer/songwriter Robert Hill's self-titled CD is a dynamite listening experience that's an amalgam of rockin' blues, southern-fried slide work and roots rock. Featuring his subtly brilliant slide guitar work, the CD offers two excellent instrumentals, "Ozark Passage", with its live-in-the-room-sounding acoustic slide, bowed bass (courtesy of Matt Gruenberg and driving groove, and "Slide On Rye", a four minute plus, sinuous electric slide charged rave in which Hill gets to play over Keith Cotton's rousing piano accompaniment. A third instrumental, "Crater Of Diamonds", closes the CD, and is no less entertaining, with its moody, lyrical, and sometimes snaky, electric slide leads dominating the piece. Of course, Hill is also a strong and impassioned vocalist, delivering his lyrics with the conviction of someone who walks the walk. Among the standout vocal tracks is the almost eight minute "Workingman's Curse", with its funk-meets-blues solo passage and poignant message. If you've enjoyed music from bands such as Little Feat or artists such as John Hiatt, you'll delight in discovering Hill - who should not remain 'Undiscovered' for long.