Robert Hill – My Corner
I’d never heard of songwriter and slide guitarist Robert Hill when a mutual friend recently sent me a copy of his CD “ My Corner.” First impression: “ This sucks, it sounds just like EmmyLou Harris’s Wrecking Ball. Too much bass, too heavy on the bass drums. Too much affectation in the vocals. Somebody wants to be thought of as an “artist”.
Twenty good listens to later, I am a Robert Hill fan. Robert won me over, as a songwriter, first of all. He touches topics few people deal with, and from an unusual vantage point. He is a remarkable guitarist, shining particularly on slide guitar. He is also a hard to pigeon hole vocalist with great range and tone. He is an artist. “My Corner” will probably never make the Billboard charts in any category, but it is a very precious collection of well executed songs that are worth listening to. Someday, hopefully, some famous person will grab up one of Hill’s compositions, and run with it. They are that good.
The CD starts out with the title track, My Corner, as first hand claim to a street corner by a “bum” who’s lost his wife and child in a car accident. Hauntingly plaintive lyrics tell the story of a man fighting to hang on to his own little piece of turf until the angels come to reunite him with his family.
Hill flirts around the edges of what used to be called “Acid Rock” with Blessed Dream. Ethereal and trippy are good adjectives, both for the music and the lyrics.
Then comes Another Chapter, a contemplative look back at love lost, love found, and the feeling of holding a newborn baby, and further steps in life. The pedal steel line, provided by Bob Heffnar, is drop dead gorgeous.
In First in Fight, Hill takes up the topic of civil war in Liberia. How many people have taken up that subject? He’s the first I’ve ever heard. Hill slides through the rhythms and weaves his tale. I want to learn more.
“Smokestack” is an instrumental number that would have fit very well on some acoustic Hot Tuna album. Again Hill’s slide work keeps it interesting. There are no mind bending solos, just a pleasant melody with a driving beat.
Hill takes us for a trip down a dry dusty country road in” Country Soul”. A girl trades her flower sack dress for a post-depression better life.
The shining gem of the whole CD, in my opinion, is the song that comes next; “Angelina.” It’s a tribute to a daughter, a little girl who has brought joy into a life hungry for it. The melody is catchy, the slide guitar line is priceless, and the chorus keeps running through my head.
“Angelina, ballerina in the living room
Angelina, Cinderella dancing with a broom
Angelina, you are God’s gift to me
You brought me to my senses
You brought me to my knees.”
“Forbidden Fruit” is another pleasant instrumental, and again Hill’s slide guitar work shines.
“Different Faiths” doesn’t do much for me. It seems to be a rant against a childhood friend who the artist has lost respect for because he’s too religious. There’s a nice growl on the dobro, and interesting uses of minor chords. Might have been a good filler for one of Bob Weir’s solo albums, like Heaven Help The Fool.
The final cut, “Washing Away” takes Hill out into the sunset. The simplistic mandolin line fits the song nicely. It’s a mellow song that leaves the listener wondering what more Robert Hill might have up his sleeve. Hill’s music doesn’t fit a particular genre. He’s a singer/songwriter and good guitarist. I hear strains of folk, blues, and country in his work on “My Corner”, but to force his music into any of those slots would be to miss the bulk of the CD. Robert Hill is a very talented musician, and an able poet. I’ve been converted, I am a fan of Robert Hill, and I’m looking forward to whatever comes next. Get in at the ground level with this CD and we’ll all be looking forward to hearing more in the future.