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BANG Music Review: James Hill – The Old Silo

 

the old silo james hill

Y’all already know I’m an ardent fledgling ukulelist and, as such, a James Hill fan. (Actually, I was a James Hill fan first.) Therefore, I need to tell you that his new album, The Old Silo, was released on Tuesday. Even better, you can stream it live, RIGHT NOW, at jameshillmusic.com.

As it happens, I have already had my signed copy of this album for a few weeks, as co-crowdfunder of its production (if I sound smug and boasty about it – yes, I totally am), so I’ve had lots of time to listen to it and ponder it.

If you’re familiar with James’s other original albums, you will find this one different. From the first chord, it’s harder and rockier. The uke is still in the forefront, but for the most part not the shimmery, folksy acoustic sound. Not exactly the same sound I fell in love with, but so much fun. (A few songs feature the baritone ukulele, whose sound I did not even recognize as a uke at first.)

Also, Sean and I agreed – there is a certain Plaskettesque quality to the sound. Joel Plaskett, famous Canadian rock sailor (whom Sean and I also enjoy), produced the album and performed in seven of the eleven songs, and although the songs are James’s, the influence is audible. (I mean… it is if you know it’s there.)

Here’s what I love about the album as a whole: it has this epic, image-rich, brimming-with-history feel to it. Listening to the whole thing in order, to me, is like watching a movie – my imagination runs away with me and there’s so much drama.

You’ll notice on the album cover, above, that there’s an hommage to American Gothic going on.

american gothic

Right? Not just me?

So, in my mind, The Old Silo is flashbacks and alternate realities that this couple might have experienced. Did you ever look at this picture and wonder what it was like when these two fell in love? What they looked like when they were young? What would have happened if they hadn’t found each other? What secrets of their past they kept from each other? What their sex life is like? What will happen when one of them dies?

It’s all here, guys. I’ve completely lost count of how many times I’ve listened to The Old Silo straight through, and I can’t get tired of it.

A few other notes:

  • A silo up close looks like a giant fretboard, what?! Effing brilliant.
  • Several songs sounded similar to each other the first time I heard them, and sort of overlapped in my head. The more I listen, the less alike they sound.
  • I finally looked at the lyrics for the first song, “New Moon”, after I’d been singing along for a couple weeks. It’s “My faithful Datsun Bluebird”, but I’d been hearing “dachsund“. It never occurred to me I had it wrong, but actually Datsun makes a lot more sense in the context.
  • The entire album is very singable. And danceable.
  • The one we like to sing most in our house is “The Village Belle” – it’s such a foot-stomper. One of those Stan Rogers-ish songs that sounds like it must have existed for over a century already. LOVE IT.
  • (Also, E asked what “village belle” means, and I told him it’s the prettiest girl in town. He thought about it and said, “Mummy, you’re the village belle. Actually, you’re the galaxy belle.” He often speaks galactically. Oh little-boy mama-bias, I cherish you.)
  • E’s fave is “She’s Still Got It”, which makes me giggle. Since, you know, he’s five, and it will be at least a few years before he figures out that it’s about sex. Between elderly folk. ­čśë
  • There are no purely instrumental songs on this album, which surprised me a little. But there are a couple of delicate, quiet ones that might just break your heart.
  • As in Man With A Love Song, there are lyrics that make you shake your head because they’re so astute, not to mention neatly-rhymed. (“Are you with old money or the nouveau riche? Did they put you on a throne, or on a leash?”)
  • The song that has grown on me the most is called “Tie One On” – and it’s actually about the old silo. It didn’t particularly grab me the first time I heard it, but I like it more with every listen. Mysterious, haunting, bitter, raucous enough to hint at violence in the backstory.┬áBecause there’s definitely a grand backstory, if I only knew what it was.

So, to sum up:

If you didn’t already do this at the beginning of this post, go on over to jameshillmusic.com and take a listen. The worst (and best) thing that could happen is you’ll become obsessed.

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