The one time I saw Matt Hill - playing with Bob Margolin at the Next Page Café in Weymouth about a year ago, he was, in fact, “on the floor” for a good part of the time. Spinning and rolling around, while playing and singing. It got so wild my view was completely blocked by the adoring crowd.
It was quite the show, and I remember thinking to myself that this young man’s antics reminded me of the late Nappy Brown.
Well, it turns out this talented guitarist, who also plays bass and lap steel on his breakout disc, was greatly influenced by Brown, and got to play with Nappy, and Carey Bell, Hubert Sumlin and Pinetop Perkins while touring with Margolin’s band.
Hill, who lives in North Carolina, absorbed a lot from those guys. That’s evidenced on the album, which is a fantastic set of straight blues (for once!) and a few Chuck Berry-esque rockin’ blues.
The 14-track disc, produced by Margolin and Dave Gross, has 10 originals. Every single one of them is worth playing over and over. I can only imagine how these improve when seeing them performed live, when Hill’s supercharged energy gets going.
Hill started playing guitar at age 12. Early on, he was into CCR, and the surf music of Dick Dale. Later, he met drummer Chuck Cotton, who plays with Margolin, and the two formed a band that competed in the 2005 International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Later he played with Max Drake, and with The BuzzKillz in Greensboro, N.C.
Cotton, Gross, and Margolin, make appearances on this disc. So do Tad Walters and Dennis Gruenling (harp,) Matt Walsh (guitar, vocals,) Clark Stern (piano,) Barry Harrison (drums,) Rob Chaseman and Doug Sasfai (sax,) and Scot Hornick, bass.
One of the best songs on the disk is “I Tried to Love a Crazy Woman,” a Muddy Waters-like number with a heavy beat behind Margolin’s always super guitar. Hill’s vocals shine on “Red Boots” a shuffle; and “30 Years Old,” (a song in which he claims he won’t reach that age. Let’s hope it’s just bravado or jest.)
Hill’s guitar is a hot as he is on “I’m Gonna Hit that Highway.”
“Stolen Bride Blues” is a deep, Delta-style number about, you got it, swiping another man’s brand new wife. There’s some growling and moaning, too.
Hill’s versatility is made clear in “Gasoline” which has a Mississippi hill country beat.
Margolin makes another appearance in a hilarious song about the travails of modern life, called “Why the F*uck (Do You Think I Cuss.)
The record ends pointedly with the acoustic “Poor Circle” a sad ode to the recession: “Twenty men on a street corner sweatin’/only one has got a job. In the poor circle you gotta steel, you gotta cheat, you gotta rob./Crime runs free day and night.
But really, how can you not love a guy who thanks his late grandmother under the album credits, and then dedicates it in memory of “Nannie, Papa, and Nappy Brown.”