Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Wednesday's Earful: Hill Country Revue; Phish In Boston

By: David Schultz

The Hill Country Revue answers the question of what Cody Dickinson and Chris Chew did while their fellow North Mississippi Allstar spent a year amongst the Crowes. Rounding out their latest project with vocalist Daniel Coburn, guitarist Kirk Smithhart and drummer Ed Cleveland, the HCR adopt a heavier take on the Delta blues that fuels the Allstars. In early April, the Revue made their New York City debut, opening for the NMA at the HighLine Ballroom (conveniently covered for by your humble narrator), and recently returned to the Big Apple for a featured slot at the Mercury Lounge.

It might be simplistic to characterize the Hill County Revue as the Luther-less All Stars but it would not be unfair. At the Merc, the HCR tore through healthy chunks of their recently released debut, Make A Move, and while they pack a mighty punch, there’s no avoiding letting your ear drift towards spots where Luther’s slide would be a perfect accent. The project serves as a welcome introduction to Smithhart and Cleveland, both entertaining musicians that are a treat to watch. However, Coburn never quite sets himself apart from the pack. He carries the right look - what’s there to hate about a bluesman that proudly bears a PBR patch on his jean jacket - and provides competent lead vocals but may the most interchangeable band member.

Besides getting a sense as to how much the massive Chew truly resembles a professional wrestler, the best part of seeing the Hill Country Revue in such a small venue was getting a close up view of Cody Dickinson playing the electric washboard, a modern version of one of the oldest, most basic and, if you live by a river without a washer and dryer, utilitarian instruments. The scrambled techno-scratch Dickinson conjures up with his metal fingertips may not the most authentic of the Delta blues sounds generated by the Revue but when Dickinson’s washboard solo led into a take on the NMA’s “Psychedelic Sex Machine,” it produced one of the set’s finest moments.

PHISH OPENED THEIR HIGHLY ANTICIPATED summer tour this week at Fenway Park in Boston. Ryan Dembinsky wrote an excellent review of the show for Hidden Track that's well worth checking out.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!