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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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Ukulelove, for the winter blahs.

Okay, lovely Di-hards, here it is – the antidote.

In all honesty, I love winter. (Mostly.) So if I’m feeling blue, as if this particular winter may never end, I’m sure a lot of you are feeling the same way. Especially if you, like me, are not going anywhere tropical or even remotely warm this March break.

Today, the temperature is up to almost freezing – relatively balmy – AND it’s my Hubbibi’s birthday! (I love you, Sean. xoxoxo) Birds are singing – the hardy ones – and hope is in the air.

SO, I decided to send you all a silly little song to help lift some winter blahs, like a sun-kissed virtual hug. It features:

  • my beautiful ukulele
  • my neophyte ukulele-playing skills
  • a little word-nerdery
  • a repetitive refrain so you can sing too! And best of all,
  • gorgeous photos of Hawaiian scenery. So you can pretend you’re there.

That should do the trick. Right? Oh, and maybe take some Vitamin D as well, to complete the illusion.

And just so you know… This performance of “Ukulelove” is dedicated to all the ukulele-learners out there, especially my inspiring musical friends Wild Wes, StarGirl, Ozfire, and their sunny mama. xoxo

And now for the credits:

  • Music and lyrics are copyright D.C.S. Stephens (aka Dilovely), 2014.
  • Vocals, ukulele, and body percussion also by Dilovely. Oh, and whistling. Recorded using GarageBand for Mac.
  • All those breathtaking tropical photos are courtesy of my wonderful cousin Q and her also wonderful new husband, who honeymooned in Hawaii last fall.
  • All those beautiful scenes with penguins in them are movie stills from Dreamworks’s Surf’s Up.
  • Other movie stills/posters are from (in order): Blue Hawaii (starring Elvis Presley), 50 First Dates, Hotel Transylvania, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Me and Orson Welles, Lilo and Stitch, Her, Some Like It Hot, and The Princess and the Frog.
  • Right near the end, there’s a photo (by Merna Ryan) of my uke hero, James Hill, and cellist/accompanist/artist/wife Anne Janelle. Because obviously.
  • Photos of koa tree and artisanal toffee from Wikimedia commons.
  • That’s me playing with my head cut off because I don’t love videos of myself, but wanted to show you that I can indeed change chords, for real. Lucky for you, I put on pretty nail wraps (from Jamberry) and a lap blanket (crocheted by my mom) to hide spruce up my yoga pants.

AND, here are the lyrics, in case you are wondering.

This is my Lady, hear her strings a-singin’
She sounds like ocean breezes and skirts of grass a-swinginÔÇÖ.

(Refrain) I love to play my uku-uku-le-le-le,
Ukulele let’s go play.

Her lovely shape is round like a pineapple,
She’s got a sunny sound that’s indefinable.

(Refrain)

She’s made of special wood from a tree called the Koa,
Her shiny toffee colour is beautiful, for shoa. (told you I was nerdy)

(Refrain)

Her case has a pocket, a flap, a strap, a door-hinge
a zipper, and the colour’s a happy dapper orange. (oh yes she did)

(Refrain)

I L-O-V-E my U-K-U-L-E-L-E
with an A7, D major, C sharp augmented, E7

(Refrain)

The best part, from my ukudelic point of view
Is when I get to strum and sing and play with YOU!

I love to play my uku-uku-le-le-le,
Ukulele let’s go (ukulele let’s go) ukulele let’s go play!

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