When Steve Hill was a lad, he discovered the blues much the same way many people do.
Through the music and words of others…
“Everytime I would hear guys like Jimmy Page talk about music, they would always be talking about people like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Robert Johnson. This is how I learned the blues, by listening to my heroes’ heroes.”
For Steve Hill – that was eighteen years ago and a lot has happened in between. A lot has happened yet Steve finds himself back where he started with his new cd – Steve Hill Solo Recordings Volume One.
Sorta, kinda …
“I had written some songs years ago that were acoustic – stripped down stuff. I was meeting a record guy in Toronto to sign a deal with that type of music. Well … the deal did not go through and the songs stayed hidden.”
Hill explains further.
“It was not the right time anyways for me. I was into electric guitar and hard rocking music. Now – I feel after all these years, I deserve and have earned to do what I want. In this case, a solo show.”
This is a big change for Steve after recently playing a recent Montreal Jazz Festival gig at Place des Arts with another guitarist, Paul Deslauriers. It was billed as a ‘ Guitar Duel ‘ and Hill enjoyed the experience immensely.
” I actually replaced Paul years ago in a band. He was one of the guys I looked up to growing up in the business. It was cool to play with him and the fans loved it.They kept coming back for more.”
Guitar duels are not heard on Steve’s new project. It is a one man show which features mostly original tunes with a couple of covers tossed into the mix – most notably ‘ Honey Bee’ by Muddy Waters. Hill explains how the album came to be.
” I was visiting a buddy and he had an old Gibson lying around. Its the type of guitar that is made for the old time blues music. He was trying to sell it and although I could not afford it at the time, it gave me the idea to do an album with just me.”
Hill’s ‘Solo Recordings’ are exactly that. It’ s a good thing the album is not called Steve Hill and One Thousand Maniacs – there is simply no room in the studio nor in Steve’s mind.
“There are two songs which I wrote on the record which I like a tiny bit more than the others (which I love)! Laughs Hill”.
‘Ever Changing World’ and ‘About Phase’ are the pair of tunes which stand out in Steve’s mind. About Phase is a definite standout, as nice a ballad you will find with a very sweet sounding riff carrying the tune …
“Musically and lyrically I am proud of the way these songs turned out. As a songwriter, if I do not think of writing and a song comes natural – the song is usually good. I have an antennae and the songs come to me through the air …”
The album, Solo Recordings Volume 1, has been online and in stores as of May. In its first week of sales, the release reached No. 10 on the Quebec SoundScan Anglophone charts.
Steve Hill is used to success. In his career spanning almost two decades, the Trois Rivieres artist has shared the stage with legends of blues and rock.
Ray Charles, B.B. King, Jimmie Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Santana, ZZ Top, Jeff Beck and Metallica. Not bad for a French Canadian boy …
This “Guitar Hero” as appointed by Voir Magazine and “Montreal blues-rock guitar god” by the Gazette, was floored when he performed with Hubert Sumlin – one of the greats of the ‘old blues guys’..
“I learned so much from him. It was funny though, I helped him to adjust his amps and stuff. He had no idea how to do it ….” Chuckles Steve.
Closer to home, Hill has accompanied some legendary Quebec artists as well. Nanette Workman, Zachary Richard, Michel Pagliaro, Éric Lapointe and Jeanm Leloup have all benefited from Hill’s lightning fast fingers and a tremendous understanding of the blues.
Is it me or does Kenny Dupree sound like Tom Jones …?
On the first track of his disc-‘ Going with the Flow’ he does. On the second song he does as well. Maybe it is Tom Jo … um, never mind …
Kenny Dupree, the oldest of a family of two brothers and a sister – is his own man. Originally of Park Extension, Kenny’s love of music started at the age of twelve. His first ‘ gig’ was at the age of eighteen.
“I was always singing in front of the mirror or the turntable.” Laughs Dupree. ” Then my high school buddy called me and I sang in his garage band. His band covered the Stones, Zeppelin … that kinda stuff. It was the music I grew up listening to. Kiss,Van Halen and the Who – the music of my generation.”
The forty – six year old Dorval resident also loved and appreciated the blues. Guys like Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James and Muddy Waters were big influences yet none as big as Paul Rodgers from Bad Company. Songs such as Shooting Star, Feel like Makin’ Love and Can’t Get Enough – the foundations of Kenny, the singer.
“My first real gig was in 1984. I sang on stage at a Canada Day gig. The band’s name was Syrin. We weren’t paid but that started my foray into music and singing in bars.”
Dupree’s first paid gig was at the Beez Bar on Cartier Ave in Pte. Claire in 1987 – a popular spot in the West Island of Montreal along with the famous Maples Inn and Edgewater hotel. It was there, Kenny learned of his talent for singing the blues.
Stevie Ray Vaughn, Muddy Waters and
B.B King’s songs became part of Dupree’s vocabulary. A language which this blues guy parlayed into a twenty four year career of singing covers at festivals, corporate events and clubs . A job which, at this point of his life, is about to change …
“I decided now is the time to show what I got!” Says Dupree about his first ever c.d;’Going with the Flow.’ It was released on Nov. 30- 2011. Says Dupree; ” Next thing I know – it will be too late. Its now or never …!”
Kenny Dupree’s disc was recorded between an excursion out West to visit his brothers. Upon return, he realized the remaining part must be done quick as he had already booked a cd launch in the Ottawa / Hull region.
The disc was completed with some help from a few friends …
Veteran bass and session player in the Montreal music scene; Alec McElcheran, penned five of the twelve songs. Choosing those five was not easy according to Kenny.
“Alec writes and is talented in all genres. He had folk songs, blues songs, rock songs – all types which he had demos of. I had a very specific vision of what I wanted so I weeded through a whole bunch of tunes to find what I wanted.”
Of the McElcheran – inked songs, Dupree – when pressed, chooses his favourite to sing. ‘Don’t wake me too soon’ – a song which showcases Dupree’s harp playing. Something Kenny is starting to take more seriously as he ages.
” I’m a self – taught harmonica player and it was always part of playing the blues. It is progressing more and more …”
‘Don’t wake me too soon’is a moderately slow blues tune which also displays Alec’s slide guitar. A coimplement to Dupree’s natural blues – driven voice. The song is second however to McElcheran’s catchiest song; Spare Change. A song which Dupree concurs is a favourite when playing live.
‘Spare Change’ is a funky blues number which attracts the listener’s attention. The feet tap along to the lyrics. Words which ring in the conscience long after the song has finished.
Guitarist Rami Cassab, also a member of Carolyn Fe’s band provides an edgy sound to ‘Baby put her foot down’ – another McElcheran song. A rockin’ blues number that is reminiscent of the golden age of Chuck Berry. The Faces can be heard in Cassab’s riffs and Dupree is at home driving this fast paced blues car to the edge.
The nicest surprise on the album which was recorded at Circle Sound Studio in Pierrefonds,Qc. – is Hubbie Ledbetter’s Black Betty. Instead of Ramjam’s manic, all-out rendition, Kenny handclaps and blows his harp in old- fashioned style. Grab an old rockin’ chair and sit down on the porch. The wheat is blowing, the crickets are chirpin’ and Mr. Dupree is proving his place among the blues greats.
‘Sleepin’ on the sidewalk’, a song written by Brian May of Queen is a standard blues song which, for the first time, allows the Paul Rodgers influence to shine. Dupree has a great time singing this one and his twenty years experience is apparent.
Cliff Stevens, a guitarist who does an Eric Clapton tribute show – wrote and performs on the song; ‘Don’t do me no more’. A tune which could be from any number of Clapton’s albums. A country feel carries the rhythm and allows Cliff to demonstrate his love of ‘slowhand’.
‘Getaway Car’, another McElcheran song – is a throwaway song. A blues song which appears as a filler. Kenny’s voice, superb as ever yet the song lacks of passion and desire. Listening is like making love to a drunk woman – it’s satisfying yet not much fUN …
Tom Jones is back and how !
‘Monkey on my Back’ is right there with ‘Spare Change’ as the best on the disc. Dupree lets loose on this upbeat Cassab driven rocker written by Jim Labos and Gail Gilligan. Kenny effortlessly belts out the lyrics; ‘who needs a monkey on their back?’ Nobody unless that monkey’s name is Dupree and you want to be entertained all day.
Terence Trent Darby’s ‘ Seven more days’ and Elmore James’ ‘ Dust my Broom’ conclude Kenny’s disc as the tireless blues singer pays hommage to the pair of artists.
Dupree has soul. The voice of an old soul. A voice on record which does not do him justice. If a live listening is happened upon, grab it. Kenny will make the men’s socks drop while inducing the ladies to toss their panties …
Just like Tom Jones.
Kenny hosts a jam at Smoke Meat Pete once a week. Friday the 17th of August is the next one. He is also playing at Bistro a Jo Jo on Tuesday the 21st with Cliff Stevens.
Check out Kenny’s website …
I was a roadie for a summer. My cousin’s group; Sleight of Hand, put me through the rigors of Rock n Roll. The girls and drugs completed my basic training.
Sleight of Hand was the opening act for Jeff Healey in Lindsay,Ont .
It was exciting for everyone in the band. The Canadian blues-based guitarist was a homegrown star with songs like; ‘Angel Eyes’ and ‘ Hideaway’. The latter nominated for a Grammy award for best rock Instrumental song.
The Jeff Healey Band had also portrayed the house band in the Patrick Swayze film; Roadhouse. Bassist Joe Rockman, drummer Tom Stephen and Healey were on the top of the Canadian music mountain – peaking at just the right time.
I was setting up Sleight’s equipment and was approached by Healey’s manager. Apparently, the guy who operated the lights for Jeff’s group was running late. The manager asked me if I could do it if he did not show by the time Healy was starting.
Who was I to say no? A job which may lead to an encounter with bigger stars or prettier girls. Or prettier stars and bigger girls?
Once Sleight of Hand finished, their equipment packed away into a run – down Chevrolet van, the manager of Healey acknowledged the absence of the light guy. I was in as the man responsible for fans ‘seeing’ the blind guitarist in different colored lights.
On top of a stepladder was my position for the following two hours. Altering on cue ( according to Healey’ s solos ) – the spotlight on the band and it’s leader.
I advised the manager, although I was a fan, all of Healy’s songs were not in my repertoire as a fan. Especially not as a light dude. ‘ No worries’ stated the forty – something guy, ‘Jeff won’t notice if you screw up!’
The show went on. I missed a few cues by a few seconds while the ladder shook under my ‘skaky -due-to-nerves’ legs. All in all, a successful debut in front of 5,000 small town screaming inhabitants.
Afterwards, it was time to live the backstage life with backstage rock folks and various backstage hangers-on.
My cousin and I – sandwiched between a table of booze and a table of food, noticed Healey sitting on the couch with his arms around a not-so-pretty woman. My cousin, the sleuth he was, figured that Jeff’s bandmates had told Healey the woman in question was attractive as a joke. A ‘blind’ stab at humour.
It was confirmed later by the bass player. By then, the point and joke were moot. Healey was in love and vice versa. A match in Lindsay,Ontario.
Healey himself, following a conversation later on – one of the most down to earth guys. Not a presumptuous bone in his body. He discussed his record collection consisting of 78’s. A collection which was famous. He shared his tales of kinship with Patrick Swayze while filming the movie Roadhouse. The two had the utmost respect for one another.
Swayze having to overcome his pretty boy image to prove his acting and Healey to overcome the stigma of blindness. An unlikely bond created by the weaknesses of others. A bond created in death as both left too soon …
Healey never quite matched that period of success again – commercially. He passed away in 2008 from cancer. It was another form of cancer, retinoblastimo, which lifted his sight when he was eleven months old.
Jeff worked with many famous musicians over his career. It was Stevie Ray Vaughn who discovered him which led to his first record contract. Healey informed me of the first time they spoke.
“He comes up to me, introduces himself and goes on to say how good I am. Imagine, Stevie Ray – one of my heroes, praising me …!”
Jeff also did not realize that night he was in the presence of another famous person – sorta …
Sleight of Hand’s lead singer; Dave Bingham, was also the singer for a group called The Ugly Ducklings back in 1967. The group had a number one song in Canada for a few months. ‘Gaslight’ was a homegrown hit and managed to surpass the Rolling Stones – if only for a brief period.
George Harrison and Jeff Lynne were also two guys Healey worked with as the Toronto born singer covered ‘ While my guitar gently weeps.’ Harrison and Lynne sang back-up.
Healey was a month away from releasing his first blues/ rock album in eight years when he died. Between the time I met him, he recorded and played various Jazz oriented albums, releasing three cd’s and toured Europe extensively.
Don’t know Jeff Healey that well? In the words of the man himself when I asked if I could have a drink from the table filled with booze;
” Go ahead – explore! That’s what it’s there for …”
The Stones – the Rolling Stones, turned fifty years of age last week. Without Chess records and the founder; Marshall Chess – the Stones would never have hit the scene. Heck – without Muddy Waters, the first ‘star’ of Chess, BrIan Jones’ group would never have had a name …
The year? 1952. The place … ? Chicago, Illinois.
Muddy Waters was the city’s newest citizen. Playing his acoustic guitar on the street corner to earn some money. It was a long way from Mississippi and even further from stardom.
Thanks to the assistance of a ‘ lady friend’,Muddy plugged into an amplifier to ensure his guitar outgrew the traffic noise which circled him like vultures on wheels.
People placed money into his case. People placed adulation into his heart.
The came Little Walter … the biggest harp player the blues will ever know. Along with Jimmy Rogers on guitar- the trio were known as the Headhunters. A name bestowed upon them by Mr. Chess himself following an incident at Marshall’s club; the Mocambo …
Waters, Walter and Rogers were doing their thing when another harp player joined the tune they were playing. Little Walter took exception to the competition and almost blew the terrified harmonica player’s head right off. Walter had a gun – the other harp player had quick feet.
The rest as they say; history with a capital ‘W’ as in Willie Dixon.
Dixon was brought into the studio by Chess to not change Muddy – to enhance him. Dixon was a master songwriter and with Water’s cooperation, a long hit parade took place with Chess himself as the Grand Marshall.
‘Rollin’ Stone’, ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’, ‘ Mannish Boy’, ‘ I just want to make love to you’ and ‘You shook me’. Some of the songs which were covered by the Stones, Led Zeppelin, Foghat and Humble Pie to name a few. The song “Come Together” by The Beatles contains the lyrics; “He roller coaster/he got Muddy Waters.”
His 1958 tour of England marked possibly the first time amplified blues was heard. His backing was provided by Englishman Chris Barber’s trad jazz group. The master of the Blues, Jazz, Country, R and B, Rock n Roll and considered the forefather of heavy metal – Waters did it all …
He penned over sixty songs in a career which spanned forty years. Sixteen were number one hits and these songs influenced Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Angus Young of AC / DC among many, many others.
McKinley Morganfield or as he is better known; Muddy Waters, continued playing to his death in 1983 of congestive heart failure. He was seventy years old.
An often overlooked phenomenon of the StoNES and their frontman. A poet? No. A song lyricist! Not really … Jagger from the early age of nineteen- a ‘philosopher’ stone. A wizard of the one sentence words.
‘ He can’t be a man ‘ cause he doesn’t smoke the same cigarettes as me’, ‘ War, children, is just a shot away’, ‘ Does your mother know you scratch like that?’
PHRASES which summed up the man on the street and Michael Phillip Jagger, regardless of his ‘wealth and taste’ – forever walking in the shoes of everyman.
‘Riding across the desert’ to come to your ’emotional rescue.’
No matter the times or era – the son of a physical education teacher, the top – ten graduate from the London School of Economics; an ear to the fads and styles of the new generation.
Each new Stones’ album included songs which kept them cool. Each new Stones album included true Stones’ songs. Each generation discovering tunes to suit their needs while discovering the Stones’ needs; the blues.
The band staying true to their roots while keeping it fresh. Miss You with a disco beat run parallel to blues riffs and bluesy harmonica. A lost leader in the band’s ‘ ‘pharmaceutical supply’ of gold albums hovering on every album.
‘ Walkin’ Central Park – Singin’ after dark ..people think I’m crazy …’