Commonly referred to as “The one-man blues rock band”, Steve Hill celebrates his 25th year as a recording artist with the release of his highly-anticipated album, Dear Illusion. Sharing the limelight on this occasion, the accomplished multi-instrumentalist teams up with a horn section, as well as 7-time UK Blues Awards Drummer of the Year, Wayne Proctor. A near three years in the making, the Canadian singer-songwriter returns to our speakers with a burning desire to capture his newfound sense of “maturity and introspection”, which combined with the finesse of his experienced songwriting, results in a passionate and sophisticated body of work.
“All About The Love” foreshadows the rich production and detailed mix which proceed to dominate Dear Illusion, opening the album with a mean, suspenseful riff, as Hill marks his spirited presence by singing; “I come alive like I’m back from the dead, when the stereo’s blasting like a shotgun to my head”. Serving as a stark contrast to the punchy snare and piercing guitar work, the inclusion of two distinct horn sections transforms the tempo of this track, with their snappy, upbeat grooves providing an unorthodox, yet exhilarating amalgamation of differing styles. Frequently called upon throughout the tracklist, these horns play a pivotal role in dictating the richness of the album, utilized at times to intensify the emotion which lies at the core of Hill’s impressive songwriting. This is employed on the momentous “Everything You Got”, a jovial cut, whose flamboyant guitar lick and thriving attitude become magnified by the uplifting cries of the horns. The full effect of these instruments can be experienced on the album’s title track, “Dear Illusion”, where combined with the bluesy reverb and melodramatic themes of deceit, the Canadian’s emotions reach an epic climax, with the instrumental’s grand crescendo something you’d expect to hear on an album’s closing track.
Despite their prominent role, Dear Illusion is by no means solely reliant on the success of the horn section. Keen to shed a light on his comprehensive skillset, Hill’s boundless talent and musical adeptness result in a diverse sounding record, containing both retro and novel aspects to his work. Constructed entirely around an absorbing harmonica lead, “Keep It Together” demonstrates the singer-songwriter’s remarkable versatility, made even more impressive with the help of a commanding guitar riff and a bodacious vocal performance. “Like going from black and white to technicolour”, he sings with a swaggering aura, a lyric truly indicative of his songwriting, where its stable framework becomes illuminated by all the nuanced touches which give it such a polished edge. Continuing to step out of his comfort zone, the album closer “Until The Next Time” features a visceral piano melody, accentuating the fortitude which can be heard within his husky vocals.
Thematically, Dear Illusion is focused on taking life by the scruff of the neck, confronting pain, and knowing exactly when to let go. Exercising this maturity throughout the album, Hill takes valuable lessons from both the good and evil in life, presenting an inspirational mindset which consistently strives for growth. Whether exploring social media addiction on “Donʼt Let The Truth Get In The Way (Of a Good Story)”, or the ardent longing on “Steal The Light From You (Bigger Star)”, the Canadian songwriter remains in tune with his emotions, content with the knowledge that things will indeed get better. Undoubtedly the most intimate and perturbing track on the album, “So It Goes” is perhaps the solitary occasion where sorrow gets a hold of the musician. With every ounce of guilt and shame augmented through each reverberating string, Hill’s vivid narrations depict a man struggling to accept the passing of a dear friend during “the prime of his life”.
While Steve Hill will always remain the “one-man blues rock band”, his decision to expand upon his sound is one which paid dividends throughout Dear Illusion. Working alongside The Devil Horns and drummer, Wayne Proctor, Hill succeeded in implementing new dimensions on tracks such as the nostalgic “Follow Your Heart”. His boldest, most introspective work to date, Hill’s uplifting instrumentation and themes of hope ensure the Canadian’s highly anticipated album was certainly worth the wait.
The Review: 9/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– All About The Love
– Everything You Got
– Dear Illusion
– Donʼt Let The Truth Get In The Way (Of a Good Story)
– Follow Your Heart
The Big Hit
– Everything You Got