I’m squeezing this “ad” out at the last minute because I’m back to living in recording studios again. As a result, for the remainder of 1994 you’ll be deluged in new Alligator releases. Right now we’re in the midst of cutting the fourth album by Saffire—The Uppity Blues Women, to be released in October. By the time you read this, the seventh Son (Seals album that is), “Nothing But The Truth” will be in your stores. Son’s gritty sound has been one of the highlights of the Alligator catalog for over twenty years. “Truth* is twelve raw, live-in-the-studio tracks, including four new Son originals plus tributes to two of his mentors, Hound Dog Taylor and Albert King.
Also on the burner for this year are new ones by Tinsley Ellis, Kenny Neal, Carey Bell, William Clarke and a fascinating (and controversial) new project from Corky Siegel. The House of Alligator keeps on rockin’!
Last time, I promised to tell you something about both Michael Hill, our newest signing, and also about “Stone Crazy,” Buddy Guy’s last American album before his current wave of (well earned) popularity. Well, I’m going to postpone Buddy until next time because I’m so excited about Michael Hill.
Michael isn’t your father’s urban bluesman. His roots aren’t in the Delta or Chicago. He grew up in the South Bronx, in the same streets as both gangsters and gangster rappers. But Michael wasn’t a real or make-believe gang banger. Instead, he was infatuated with music, specifically the music of Jimi Hendrix, which he first heard in high school. Like many others of his generation, it was by tracing Hendrix’s roots that Michael discovered the blues tradition.
As he matured into a startlingly brilliant guitarist, he joined forces with his bassist brother Kevin and old friends drummer Tony Lewis and keyboard whiz Fred MacFarlane to form Michael Hill’s Blues Mob. Because Michael’s definition of blues is far from academic, he avoided the trap of many younger blues bands of re-creating blues styles from the past. Instead, he filtered his take on the tradition through not only Hendrix but also his love of Motown, hard rock, African music, hip hop, jazz and the black heavy metal sound of Living Colour (Michael’s pal Vernon Reid, founder of Living Colour, guests on a cut on the new album.) By the time Jas Obrecht of GUITAR PLAYER called me a couple years ago, raving about Michael, Michael Hill’s Blues Mob was already a seasoned group with a heaping helping of original songs, not only about love and lust and loss, but also about life in the urban jungle, blues wannabes, violence among children and the healing power of music. But like so many struggling blues artists, Michael and his band were playing tiny clubs, while making their livings hacking away in “day job” bands playing cover tunes. I first saw Michael Hill’s Blues Mob at a little “pass the hat” place in New York called Terra Blues, and I was sold by his technique, his passion, and his vision of the future of the blues. I knew a lot of blues purists would say.”this isn’t real blues” but I’ve gotten a little tired of listening to people who discovered the blues in college tell African American musicians how to define their own musical traditions. The debut album is called “Bloodlines” (because of Michael’s intense determination to carry on and expand on the blues tradition). To those of you who say “it doesn’t sound very traditional” all I can say is “wait a few years… it will.”
More next time,