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New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
Band Blues Rock


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"Michael Hill’s Blues Mob Wows at Goat"

“New York City blues” he calls his music, but the guitarist, who with his drummer and his bass man, are called Michael Hill’s Blues Mob, can play any style blues . Well. Play very well. And the Mob did just that on Sunday night at The Goat in South Orange. Hill and the other Mobsters –Michael Griot on five-string electric bass guitar, and Bill McClellan on drums – jumped right into Hill’s modern blues “I Can’t Recall a Time” and played in precise ensemble style throughout. In a mellow and clear alto, the leader sang:

My social worker she’s doin’ all she can Most get less and less
while a few get more and more Time is tight, Lord, and the wolf is in the door.

Then, in “Soul Down-Time,” he paced the stage while slinging around his workhorse lead guitar, a Gibson Les Paul Studio like a maneuverable little pony. He drew out gritty roots sounds that seemed to come from the most dismal precincts of 1920s Mississippi, and then, without signaling a change of direction, the little pony went into sharp pizzicato mode and cried a Theremin-like strandof mournful glissando warbles.
This flexibility portended an evening of virtuosic workmanship as Hill’s Les Paul, and occasionally his acoustic, wailed, wept, screamed, whispered, cajoled, pleaded, moaned, rocked, teased, scolded, and croooned Yeah, Hill’s instrument accomplished all that, but trotting out the thesaurus for more descriptives still wouldn’t tell you how thisguy can hold an audience. And wouldn’t tell you how precise was every lick, and how easy he made it look.
Overdrive and grit
His other instrument, his voice, is naturally clear and rounded, but Hill can purposely overdrive it to give it a little edge of grit and age. When he does that, he emotes like an old bluesman who has suffered his entire wretched life. The modest, soft-spoken leader introduced some numbers with a little patter, and ad-libbed a recitative here and there, but mostly, he let his fingers do the talking. Cheers kept interrupting Hill’s timely anti-war talksong bulls-eyed at a certain national figure. The number, entitled “You Can Lie,” began heart-on-sleeve style with “There’s blood on your hands,” and featured the verse “Sending other people’s children to die is an unforgiveable lie.”
Hill is, foremost, a musician, but story-telling figures highly in his success on stage, whether doing his material or interpreting another’s. Blues singing, whether simple and unamplified, or the hardest electric rock, is soap-opera sociology set to music, starring the big three: love, money, and health. In his Goat date, though, the bluesman showed more range than seen in a week of soap operas. In the traditional “Early in the Mornin’,” covered by Junior Wells, The Grateful Dead, Eric Clapton, and others, Hill remorsefully relates the tale of a 50-something in love with an 18-year-old. In The Mob’s version, Hill used a ceramic slide to create two contrasting guitar voices to play call-and-response with himself. He then played in perfect unison with Griot, who played melody on the bass in unison with the guitar. Griot then hung back to allow Hill to solo out. The band closed out the set with Albert King’s “Born Under a Bad Sign” and the bawdy “Undercover,” punctuated by the women in the audience yellowing out “amen!” The second set was mostly acoustic, and everyone in the place stayed for it. Hill opened with an original,“Clarence and Suzette,” soloing “A wedding or a funeral will happen here today.”

Another crowd favorite at The Goat was Hill’s well-known “This Is My Job,” a New York blues to an “I’ll Walk the Line” beat. It’s about the pride felt by a squeegee guy whose “job” supplies “dignity.” Hill, without backup, played the electric and gave his voice a workout in dramatizing a mundane scene: You don't understand, but this is my job
I may have nothing, I refuse to steal and rob I never imagined this could happen in my life But it has, and I'm tryin' to survive

Graceful bass, artistic drum...

This acoustic set gave McClellan and Griot some focused stage time,with Griot playing the upright electric bass. With training as a classical cellist, he showed what a jazz /blues musician can accomplish on a fretless instrument, gracefully and speedily gliding and sliding up and down the strings when in the spotlight.

McClellan, used mostly in a supporting role, was all about precision and endurance. He kept the beat like a quartz watch, sweating and smiling throughout, and he was afforded the time to do a couple of tasty little solos.

He worked with a minimal kit – a snare, a tom, a kick-bass, high hat, and a couple of cymbals – “because that’s all I need for this music.” He was an absolute whiz with brushes, deploying them with a whisper or a crash with equal artistry. Turning up the juice, the Mob turned to a song done a thousand times, Muddy Waters’ “Mojo.” Hill floridly announced, “This is the moment of truth when everyone in the room become - WORRALL PUBLICATIONS





After four highly acclaimed studio albums and 1 live album of fiery, genre-busting original music and many miles traveled rousing audiences around the globe, the excitement and energy of THE BLUES MOB!! The power and dynamics, the deep grooves and eloquent stories, the bold, passionate singing and musicianship and engaging stage presence: it’s all here --an exhilarating 100 proof dose of their unique New York-style, soul rocking blues and a sterling addition to the rich body of work being produced by Michael Hill and “The Mob”.

It was in 1987 that Michael Hill's Bluesland (the Culture Rock Band) was formed to play original, blues-derived music that blended rock, funk, blues, Caribbean, African and R&B flavors. They played primarily in rock venues such as CBGB's that featured original music, and Hill soon spun off Michael Hill's Blues Mob to play the more "traditional" blues clubs of New York City. Whereas Bluesland was a seven piece band featuring bass, drums, guitar, sax, percussion and two female vocalists (Michael's sisters Wynette and Kathy,) the Blues Mob was a trio that sometimes added keyboards. Both bands were members of the Black Rock Coalition and featured Kevin Hill on bass and Tony Lewis on drums. While it was Bluesland with which Hill sought a record deal, a colorful turn of events brought the Blues Mob to the attention of Bruce Iglauer in 1992. When in 1993 Michael signed a deal with Iglauer's Alligator Records, his energies and attention came to focus on Michael Hill's Blues Mob.

With the release of their first Alligator album "Bloodlines" in 1994, Michael Hill's Blues Mob immediately established themselves as a cutting-edge, premier contemporary blues band with original music of uncommon power and conviction. "HILL AND COMPANY RETURN THE VOICE OF PROPHECY, AS WELL AS THE OUTRAGED HEART OF CONTEMPORARY URBAN AFRICAN-AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, TO THE MODERN BLUES TRADITION", exclaimed Living Blues. "Bloodlines" went on to earn the Living Blues Critic's award for Debut Blues Album of the Year, as well a slew of other rave reviews. The next four years saw the band release two more highly acclaimed albums on Alligator Records, with "Have Mercy!" (1996) and "New York State Of Blues" (1998) collecting their own choruses of excellent reviews. The cheering continued on the road: Michael Hill's Blues Mob has always been a dynamic, crowd-pleasing live act, receiving much love from audiences and lighting up the stage at the Chicago Blues Festival, Memphis In May and other festivals and clubs. They've been welcomed to stages all around the rest of the world as well, doing numerous tours playing festivals and clubs in England, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France, Norway and the rest of Europe and Scandinavia as well as tours in Turkey, Russia and five trips each to Brazil and Australia. In November 2002 Michael performed in Beirut, where Lebanese audiences enthusiastically soaked up that Blues Mob New York energy.

The New Millennium saw Michael Hill's Blues Mob release their fourth album in 2001 on Singular Records in the U.S. and Dixiefrog in Europe, and "Suite: Larger Than Life" earned the Mob’s usual stellar reviews. Blues Revue said, "SUITE, HIS FIRST ALBUM SINCE 1998'S EXCELLENT NEW YORK STATE OF BLUES, SHOWS HILL EXPANDING ON HIS PREVIOUS WORK", and "IF ONE IS LOOKING FOR AN ALBUM WITH UNCOMPROMISING MUSICAL AND LYRICAL INTEGRITY, SUITE: LARGER THAN LIFE IS IT", declared Goldmine.

While the band has always drawn acclaim for Hill's songwriting and guitar playing, it's the state-of -the-art musicians in the Blues Mob who have brought the music to soul-stirring reality. The vicissitudes of life and the music business have seen original Blues Mob members Kevin Hill, Tony Lewis and Fred McFarlane as well as first tour member Douglas Booth and E.J. "the Professor" Sharpe move on to Blues Mob alumni status. As of December 2003 Pete Cummings decided to move on to other musical horizons after eight sterling years with the Mob.

The band's tradition of great musicianship continues: Bill McClellan has held down drums/vocals since 1999 and in January 2004, Mike Griot (who toured Europe with the band for a month in 1998) joined as a regular member playing bass guitar, electric upright bass and singing. Back to their roots as a trio, the Blues Mob is more powerful, adventurous and exciting than ever. In addition, they've added acoustic music to their arsenal, elevating even further the rich intimacy of their performances. And while cliché and imitation are acceptable to some, no doubt Michael Hill's Blues Mob and their unique New York-style blues will continue to be in the vanguard of keeping the blues alive and thriving in the 21st century with originality, real life conviction and full-throttle fun. To paraphrase, "DAMN THE CLICHES, FULL SPEED AHEAD!"