This page is part of an opinionated overview of "alt.country" music, with record reviews by me, Joe Sixpack... Naturally, it's a work in progress, and quite incomplete, so your comments and suggestions are welcome.
This is the second page covering the letter "H"
John Hiatt - see artist discography
Arty Hill "Baltimore Reasons" (Self-released, 2003)
Arty Hill "Back On The Rail" (Self-released, 2005)
Arty Hill "Bar Of Gold" (Cow Island, 2008)
Arty Hill & The Long Gone Daddys "Back On The Rail" (Cow Island, 2009)
(Produced by Arty Hill & Dave Nachodsky)
This is a reissue of Hill's second album, with a bonus track added... Lively, rugged DIY twang, blending honkytonk and rockabilly influences, banged out by a compact trio of guitar-guitar-drums, with electric leads that often have a Junior Brown-ish feel. Hill's obviously into old-school twang, though unafraid to let his East Coast accent come through. In keeping with tradition, the lyrics are all pretty glum and fatalistic, with the more anthemic numbers falling more inside the rockabilly side of things. The highlight track for me would be the slower-tempo, Steve Earle-ish "I Left Highlandtown," an unrepentant self-portrait of an unsympathetic character, a guy who steals from his ex and gloats about his getaway... This album is rougher-sounding than Hill's later stuff, where he started using a wider palatte (pedal steel and all...) but fans of true twang will recognize a kindred spirit here... Definitely worth a spin.
Arty Hill "Montgomery On My Mind: The Hank EP" (Cow Island, 2009)
(Produced by Arty Hill & Dave Nachodsky)
A swell tribute to Hank Williams, mixing original tribute songs by Hill with strong covers of Hank Williams classics... Plenty of twang, soul, and solid musicianship. Hard to argue with Hank, and the new tunes are fun, too.
Arty Hill "Pie For Breakfast: Riffs, Roughs, And Radio" (Self-released, 2010)
Arty Hill "Another Lost Highway" (Self-released, 2010)
Arty Hill "Heart On My Dirty Sleeve" (2014)
Hillbilly Idol "Town & Country" (Egg Records, 1999)
Although the production is a bit thin, this is a pretty charming indiebilly album from an earnest band hailing from Cleveland, Ohio... Mostly it's the quality of the songwriting that makes this album noteworthy, with strong tunes penned by bandmates Dave Huddleston, Paul Kovac and Al Moss, each skillfully delving into the western swing, honkytonk and country-rock traditions... The actual delivery is kinda clunky, but their hearts are obviously in the right place. Worth checking out, though their later records are much stronger.
Hillbilly Idol "Hillbilly Idol" (Slewfoot, 2002)
Hillbilly Idol "Lights Of Town" (Yodel-Ay-Hee, 2006)
Chris Hillman - see artist discography
Donal Hinely "Midwinter Carols" (Scuffletown, 2000)
Donal Hinely "Ghost Fiddle Suite" (Scuffletown, 2000)
Donal Hinely "We Built A Fire" (Scuffletown, 2002)
Literate, well-sculpted singer-songwriter Americana; countrified poetics, along the lines of Robert Earl Keen, Jr.'s work, music that may be too mannered for old-school country fans, or a breath of fresh air, for folks looking for the artform to expand. Kim Richey sings on several songs, and one or two erstwhile Wilco members also play throughout. Overall, this is a little too restrained for my tastes, but I'm sure there are plenty of folks out there -- folks who liked Emmylou Harris's Wrecking Ball, for example -- who would love to hear this disc. For an indie album, it's very well realized and thoughtfully made.
Donal Hinely "Glass Stories" (Scuffletown, 2004)
Donal Hinely "Giants" (Scuffletown, 2005)
Singer-songwriter Donal Hinely has a refreshingly naive faith in simple, satisfying melodic hooks, lyrics that rhyme and close up nicely, and words that mean what they say. The album opens with the title track, "Giants," a catchy, heartfelt elegy to the cultural titans of the 'Sixties -- Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Phil Ochs -- and bemoans the vacuum left in today's America, a gap that is filled by small-minded and venal strivers. It's just the kind of subject matter that anti-folkies would love to latch onto and sneer at as stuck-in-the-'Sixties navelgazing, except that the song is just so damn effective, and the contrast between that era and ours really is so stark and disheartening... It's a great opening to a good album; on the next track, Hinely laments a mythic time "Before Music Was A Product," while on "Shock And Awe" he joins the ranks of modern folkies who condemn the war in Iraq. He also sculpts some nice slice-of-life scenarios, singing of new parents adjusting to an amped-up level of adulthood, and the nostalgia of lost true love ("Adelaide," also one of the album's catchier tunes). Fans of Freedy Johnston will find a similar spirit here, with Hinely's open embrace of soft, melodic electric guitars and clean, catchy couplets. A few songs go adrift, but overall this is a really nice record!
Donal Hinely "Blue State Boy" (Scuffletown/Atom Record, 2008)
(Produced by Donal Hinely)
A fine modern folk troubadour, Texas boy Donal Hinely has a keen sense of humor and a good sense of melody, crafting catchy songs that touch unexpected human depths... This album begins with a lighthearted tribute to Dylan ("Song For Bob") and a particularly tuneful love song ("Mona, Mona") along with another strong entry, "Shattered Glass," that rounds out the album's strong start. Then it coasts back into more standard folkie fare, including some political tunes such as his unexpectedly ardent declaration of love for US Senator Barbara Boxer ("Dear Mrs. Boxer") and the album's title track, "Blue State Boy," which describes the frustrations of liberals living in the supposedly conservative American heartland. It's here where I start to have problems with this set - on previous albums, Hinely approached political material with a subtle touch and firm conviction that was particularly keen and effective. "Blue State Boy," despite having a sentiment that I strongly share (having grown up in the Midwest) is a bit of a clunker, aesthetically speaking. Still, Hinely is a skilled songwriter and sings to and from the heart -- fans of artists such as Greg Brown, Slaid Cleaves and Eliza Gilkyson will find a lot to like here, as well. (Check out Hinely's website www.donalhinely.com for more info.)
Tish Hinojosa- see artist discography
Alt.Country Albums - More Letter "H"
Hick Music Index