Markus Rill
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Markus Rill


Band Americana Singer/Songwriter


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"A tasty dessert"

As the title suggests, here's the dessert to his last studio album "Hobo Dream". To continue the metaphor: It's as tasty as a bowl of red jello after a solid Hamburg fish platter. (note: Apparently, this is a local
specialty. Think "vanilla ice cream after a chicken-fried steak").

There are some older songs ("A Girl Called Jo", "Nowhere Begins") in thoroughly shaken and heavily stirred live band versions, there are some highly promising solo demos - and best of all: Markus Rill has lured a great duet partner to his little farm, the wonderful Rachel Harrington ( Together they saddle their horses for "One More Dollar" (Welch/Rawlings) and "If I Needed You" (Townes/Earle). And off they ride safely towards the horizon.

3 1/2 stars - highly recommended

- Rolling Stone

"If voices were highways ..."

THE PRICE OF SIN • Markus Rill

If voices were highways, Markus Rill's would be gravel. It has all the rough edges of Steve Earle, the husky timbre of Tom Waits, the warbles and vulnerability of Lucinda Williams. And, like those alt-country luminaries, Rill certainly excels at songwriting.

Rill's latest, The Price of Sin, is born in the moseying folk storytelling of legends like Guy Clark, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, and, more recently, Robert Earl Keen, full of homespun tales of hoboes, desperation, and lost love that usually double as morality tales. That Rill is a German who produces his records in Nashville with some of Music City's biggest names only serves to make his records all the more intriguing. The album was, in fact, produced by the legendary George Bradfute and features multi-instrumentalist Fats Kaplin on every track. The result is a twangy country-folk hybrid that is both catchy and minimalist.

Rill's lyrics of the woebegone and the downtrodden are his best throughout the CD. The opening "Singin' in the Cemetery" finds Rill's narrator celebrating life instead of focusing on death and his own sadness, while "Broken Puppet" is an ominous first-person narrative of the death of a child in a car accident told from the parent's point of view. The refrain in "Broken Puppet" provides one of the most indelible images on The Price of Sin--that of a "puppet of St. Christopher lyin' broken on the street."

The true highlight of The Price of Sin, however, is "Me & Bonnie Parker." A posthumous tribute to the infamous Bonnie of Bonnie & Clyde fame written from the perspective of Parker's former husband, "Me & Bonnie Parker" is one of the more countrified tracks on Rill's record, featuring rousing banjo and fiddle by Kaplan and Bryan Owings rollicking percussion. The title track features an equally enchanting premise--this time an adulterous relationship that goes terribly wrong. Set to Bradfute's haunting cello and Owings' delicate brush drums, "The Price You Pay For Sin" showcases Rill's ability to write a morality tale without sounding sanctimonious or trite.

While the remainder of the songs on the CD may not be knockouts, neither are they throwaway tracks by any stretch. On the whole, The Price of Sin features strong lyrics, folk melodies and enough musical variety to not seem droning or complacent--a solid outing from a singer-songwriter who deserves more exposure on this side of the Atlantic.
• Tracy M. Rogers


"Simply excellent"

CD Of The Week: Markus Rill - The Price Of Sin

On his fifth album, The Price Of Sin, Markus Rill from Germany once again proves himself to be a truly great artist. On this album, recorded in Nashville in the company of class acts like George Bradfute, Fats Kaplin, Dave Jacques, Bryan Owings, and Dave Coleman, the man concentrates mainly on ballads. With his sandpaper voice as his trump card he leads the way through twelve original songs that are simply excellent.

He expressly focused on giving these songs an acoustic treatment. We hear a gently moaning pedal steel, a carefully picked acoustic guitar, an elegantly buzzing bass, and gently played drums and percussion topped off with a little dobro, banjo, mandolin, and cello with occasionally emerging accordion, harmonica and piano - more is not necessary to establish that Rill is playing at the top of his game on this record.

It is simply stunning how in Wash Away The Stain he manages to perfectly set the universal feeling of "contrition after the sin" to music, or how in The Price You Pay For Sin he ponders on the strange feeling that takes hold of him after seducing his best friend's wife. He evokes these emotions so vividly that the listener cannot help but be touched and experience what he's singing about. Rill describes it, you feel it ... spectacular! We do not know a better word to describe this. This is Americana of the highest order: warm, full of integrity, and lasting.

5 of 5 stars (absolutely brilliant)

- Ctr.Alt.Country (NL)

"Twelve brilliant songs"

On the eve of two of the Netherlands' most important Americana festivals (Blue Highways & Roots of Heaven), it is surprising that not only Holland's own artists (for instance Charley Cruz and The Lost Souls, H.T.Roberts, J.W. Roy, Bart Jan Baartmans) are overlooked, but also Europe's premier Americana artist by the name of Markus Rill. That's a real shame because this German singer-songwriter has proven with his previous albums Gunslingers Tales ('97), The Devil and the Open Road ('99), Nowhere Begins ('01), The Hobo Companion ('04), and Hobo Dream ('04), that he is a force to be reckoned with in the world of Americana.

The last disbelievers will be won over by his magnificent new album The Price of Sin. Once again, Markus went to Nashville to make a record. Over there he worked with Fats Kaplin, Dave Jacques, Bryan Owings, George Bradfute and Dave Coleman. These are world class musicians who enjoyed helping him in the studio - just like Rachel Harrington (new album out soon), Jim Stringer, Karen Poston, Todd Thibaud, Elliot Murphy, Roger Wallace, Duane Jarvis, Bob Delevante, Steve Conn have enjoyed being on stage with this talented European guy. Rill even gave some much appreciated performances at the recent SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.

With twelve brilliant songs bathing in a serene acoustic atmosphere, Markus Rill has managed to record his best album yet. I cannot remember having heard a better and more tasteful mix of pedal steel, banjo, mandoline, dobro, slide, several guitars, harmonica and accordion - and all these ingredients are in harmony with the gravel-and-sandstone voice of the master himself.

The whole album is one beautiful performance inviting you to listen to these songs which convey emotions strong enough to melt even an iceberg.
In the first song, Singin' In The Cemetery, Markus casts a loving look back on his deceased mother, in The Price You Pay For Sin he is full of shame and regret after seducing his best friend's wife.
There's a bit of bluegrass to enjoy on Me & Bonnie Parker while Carry My Load will make lovers of country, blues, and gospel happy. Just So You Know, Broken Puppet, My Love Runs to You, Fade to Blue are true gems holding up in any comparison to the better songs of Townes Van Zandt, Tom Waits, John Prine, Ray Wylie Hubbard and Steve Earle.
This is an record which no doubt will end high on the scoreboard of best productions of 2006 - a true beauty of an album.

4,5 out of five points
- Rootstime (BEL)

"Excellent songs in phenomenal sound"

Exactly two years after releasing his internationally acclaimed masterpiece "Hobo Dream", Markus Rill wows singer-songwriter aficionados with a new studio album. The Price Of Sin is a more than worthy successor, supplying evidence for ever closer ties of this Wuerzburg, Germany-based musician with the Americana scene and a staggering level of quality and consistency in his songwriting - his highest yet.

Right from the start - and that's where we hear "Singin' In The Cemetery" dedicated to his deceased mother - it becomes evident that The Price Of Sin is a diligently produced album of stunning sonic quality. The wistful sound of steel guitar, the band's careful support of Markus taking center stage with his engaging sandpaper voice, sure-handed guitar picking and harmonica - none of his previous albums has boasted such a phenomenal sound. Over the years, though, his back catalogue has grown into quite an impressive oeuvre.

In the beginning in 1997, there was the promising debut of Gunslinger's Tales, followed by two Texas-oriented albums, The Devil & The Open Road (1999) and Nowhere Begins (2001), which showcased Rill's acoustic as well as his electric side, and the versatility of his German band, The Gunslingers. In 2004, Rill fulfilled one of his biggest dreams by recording in Nashville, TN. with first-rate musicians like Duane Jarvis, Steve Conn, George Bradfute, Billy Block, and Karen Poston. Hobo Dream catapulted Rill to the level of such icons of the Americana scene as Ray Wylie Hubbard, Robert Earl Keen, Tom Russell, Dave Alvin, and James McMurtry.

The Price Of Sin is predominantly acoustic, carefully arranged, and offers up a much broader topical palette than the typical Markus Rill-roadsong. And yet the album achieves its high goals with remarkable ease and laid-back-ness in wonderful - in the best sense of the word - entertaining fashion. These twelve brilliantly assembled songs rely on three pre-eminent qualities: The maturity and confidence of their leading man, the combination of musicality and sound-engineer-know-how in co-producer George Bradfute, and the contributing musicans' clear grasp and sensitive realization of the material.
Bradfute - who has worked with big names like Jason Ringenberg, Paul Burch, Amy Rigby, and Webb Wilder - creates just the right atmosphere for each of these songs, graces them with his own instrumental contributions (dobro, cello, acoustic and electric guitars), and adds a special touch to every single one of them. The basic sessions (including most of the vocals) were recorded live in Nashville in October 2005 with the core group of Dave Jacques on upright bass, Bryan Owings on drums, and hard-to-believe multi-instrumentalist Fats Kaplin on banjo, mandolin, fiddle, pedal steel, lap steel, and bottleneck guitars. These very in-demand cats have amassed an endless list of recording credits, among them Buddy Miller, Greg Trooper, John Prine, Patty Griffin, Kelly Willis, Tom Russell, and Kevin Gordon.

But back to the main issue - the songs. With "My Love Runs To You" and "Just So You Know" we get to hear two hopeful odes to a beloved - but shortly thereafter "Wash Away The Stain" and "Fade To Blue" announce her departure. The convincing title track deals with morality and weakness; the snappy, bluegrassy "Me & Bonnie Parker" is sung from the perspective of Bonnie's first partner - before she met Clyde. The ominous-sounding "Broken Puppet" is the yardstick all of Rill's further efforts in the ballad genre will be measured against. And the rhythmically very agile slide guitar/gospel/mountain blues number "Carry My Load" deservedly takes center stage with its moving quest for inner peace. "Not Ready Yet", dealing with fears for his father's health brings the rootsy song cycle begun with "Singin' In The Cemetery" back home and provides closure.
Kudos for a great singer-songwriter album!
- Chill Music

"Conclusive and courageous songs"

This hobo at heart has finally been able to realize one of his musical dreams: recording in the country of initiation and inspiration. It didn't pan out to be Austin, Texas but even in Nashville, a guy like Duane Jarvis can round up a few of his buddies for a session; guys who usually play with the likes of Buddy Miller & co. They provided their well-known musicianship for this amicable German who rose to the occasion and brought some of his most conclusive and courageous songs to the table and recorded them with great determination. The gospel of "Dying Bed" and the following rocker "Not Yet Shipwrecked" demonstrate the bandwidth of the album.

Ironically, Rill recorded the three most countrified songs of the bunch in Wuerzburg/Germany with his home posse. Oh well, a cowboy doesn't care where he is when he feels blue, does he? After all, these days he can write emails to ease his yearnings. Then again, Rill describes what that can lead to in the humorous bonus track "Cyberspace Love Song".

4 stars - excellent

- Rolling Stone

"A masterpiece"

Markus Rill has long been a household name for lovers of handmade singer-songwriter music with a country flavor. The German troubadour from Würzburg with a strong Texas vein and ties to Austin and Nashville returns to Blue Rose records with his masterpiece. After three albums recorded in Germany using his band The Gunslingers and German studio pickers, Rill went to Nashville for "Hobo Dream" and recorded his first American session with well-known Nashville musician friends. Thus, a long-cherished personal dream has come true.

After many years of honing his craft in Austin, Texas, after releases that have continuously grown more professional and after having earned a huge amount of experience as a live performer solo and with the Gunslingers, Rill has reached a point where he is no longer emulating his American idols. Within the industry he is known as an artist who stands shoulder to shoulder with such giants of songwriting as James McMurtry, Steve Earle, Dave Alvin, Tom Russell und Robert Earl Keen. His stories of life on and next to the road will pass every test of Americana with flying colors.

Speaking of the road - most songs on the album deal with the pathways of life and movement: coming from somewhere, hopefully finding a place to go to, driving into another nameless town, finding a new love somewhere and losing it, being homesick and feeling wanderlust - the full spectrum of the "hobo dream". A very adequate title for a collection of tracks with self-explanatory titles like "Heartbreak Town", "Far Away From Home, "Where Do We Go From Here?", "Love Has Dragged Me Down This Road
Before", and "Roll On".

Without belittling the strengths of Rill's previous recordings, one has to come to the conclusion that these recordings from late summer 2003 in Nashville represent an enormous step forward in his career. Having a full-blooded musician like Duane Jarvis by his side is crucial. Not only has Jarvis delivered excellent guitar work; he has also acted as producer and put together a stellar cast of musicians that will look good in anybody's CD booklet: Next to Jarvis playing electric guitar as well as mandolin and slide guitar, we hear bassist Rick Plant (Allison Moorer, Buddy & Julie Miller, Amy Rigby), Drummer Billy Block (Coal Porters, Lucinda Williams, Rick Vito) and on a bunch of tracks even Steve Conn (Sonny Landreth, Bonnie Raitt, Dixie Chicks) on accordion and organ. Dave Coleman tops it off with creamy harmony vocals on top of Rill's sandpaper voice and legendary sound engineer George Bradfute (Jason Ringenberg, Webb Wilder, Paul Burch) is responsible for the record's excellent sound, giving a hand with extra guitars and keyboards and playing the wonderfully energetic guitar solo on "Not Yet Shipwrecked", the record's most appealing and hardest-rocking song - Markus Rill goes John Mellencamp.

This band played on 10 of Hobo Dream's 13 self-penned songs. The other songs were recorded in Würzburg using folk/country singer's Karen Poston's touring band consisting of such luminaries as pedal steel ace Bobby Snell and guitarist Jim Stringer (Roger Wallace, Susanna Van Tassel, Wayne Hancock). Poston herself provides background & harmony vocals. It's self-evident that these songs are the most countryfied of the bunch. The album's rounded out with a fine solo/acoustic-bonus track full of irony and humor. The "Cyberspace Love Song" ends the album John Prine/Todd Snider-style.
- Chill Music

"Please keep making albums like this"

How does that old saying go - if only you travel far enough you'll end up finding yourself. Markus Rill went on more than one journey when he boarded a plane to Nashville last summer to record his new album. Without the help of his trusted band, The Gunslingers, but with producer Duane Jarvis and a handful of excellent studio musicians in their stead. Real collaborators to be sure, not just hired hands. (Three of the album's songs were recorded in Germany.)

The result is an album that deals with traveling - what else? But it's not only the trip to the center of the roots and country scene. The lyrics dig up some heavy personal matters that have pulled down many others. Rill has succeeded in tailoring a perfect musical fit for his clearly worded storysongs that compete with the best material on the current roots scene.

So he hails from Wuerzburg/Germany - who cares as long as he manages to write songs like these? With "Hobo Dream" under his belt, Markus Rill no longer has to prove anything to anyone. Just please keep making albums like this.

Martin Abend

- Roadtracks magazine



The Things That Count (January 2008, Blue Rose)
Live (2006, self-released)
The Price Of Sin (2006, Blue Rose)
Hobo Dream (2004, Blue Rose)
The Hobo Companion (2004, self-released)
Nowhere Begins (2001, Music Network)
The Devil & The Open Road (1999, Blue Rose)
Gunslinger's Tales (1997, self-released)

"Hobo Dream" and "Hope I'll Get To Heaven" featured in the US independent movie "Last Stand" (2005)
"Haunted House" featured in the US independent movie "Lost On The B-Side" (scheduled for release in 2006)



Markus Rill writes about The Things That Count. He sets intelligent, moving lyrics about dealing with the winding ways of life & love to atmospheric folk music, stark country, driving rock'n'roll, or a fascinating amalgam thereof. His unique sandpaper-and-gravel voice adds another layer of depth and character.

The German-born singer-songwriter has won awards and accolades for his songwriting, he has toured all over Europe and played some of the biggest festivals & finest clubs in the USA (SXSW, Folk Alliance, the Bluebird Café in Nashville, TN., the Cactus Café in Austin, Tx.), he has recorded with the most in-demand players on the Americana scene - Duane Jarvis, Steve Conn, Fats Kaplin, Dave Jacques, Bryan Owings to name but a few -, and he has shared stages with the incomparable Townes van Zandt, Tom Russell, Chris Knight, Steve Wynn, Hal Ketchum, and countless others. An impressive resume.

And yet The Things That Count, Rill's sixth studio album, is his finest work to date - even though its predecessor The Price Of Sin ended up on numerous year-end best lists. His songwriting packs punch and insight, Richard McLaurin's production opens up new soundscapes, and Rill's vocal delivery goes right under your skin. There's lines that will resonate, melodies you'll be singing along with, and stories that'll keep you thinking. Sarah Stein, a story song about a famous ballet dancer who escaped yet couldn't forget Nazi Germany, is simply the most moving song you'll hear in a mighty long time.

Rill is all about substance. There's no gloss nor make-up, there's no paint-by-numbers wanna-be hits - there's only twelve truly great songs and plenty of inspired musicianship.
The Things That Count is an album that counts.

What the critics are saying:

"Songs shimmering beautifully with ambiguity ... brilliant lyrics"
(Rolling Stone/Germany)

"First-rate songs ... he could give those guys in Texas a few lessons"
(Village Records/USA)

"Sharply drawn flesh & blood-characters - a songwriter with boot-dirt authenticity"
(Miles Of Music/USA)

"The songs are exquisite, not a false note or word, but it is definitely the singer who sells them."
(Dale Jellings recommends/USA)

"If voices were highways, Markus Rill's would be gravel ... like Steve Earle, Tom Waits and Lucinda Williams, he excels at songwriting"


- 1st prize winner International Narrative Song Competition 2007 for "The Price You Pay For Sin"

- finalist International Sonwriting Competition 2007 with "Me & Bonnie Parker"

- finalist International Sonwriting Competition 2006 with Dying Bed

- finalist American Songwriter magazine competition 2006

- finalist South Florida Folk festival 2006

- honorable mention Unisong Contest 2006 & 2007