Hill Roberts' Debut Album "Catfish, Let The Music Take..." Is Truly A Diamond In The Rough
Far Greater Than A Restaurant Performer’s Handout CD
"This artistic and experimental journey began with old and 'dirty' tape heads in The Green House Atlanta studio/rehearsal space and was produced alongside musician and friend, Aaron Hill. My intention was not to write a bunch of sad songs, but to create an album that, when listened to in a certain order, tells a story of one person's trials and tribulations, born from decisions made to replace the hurt of forlornment. As the story develops and approaches light, the tape heads get cleaner!!" -Hill Roberts
Hill self-funded this project for many years and continued to contribute. A few years before the release of "Catfish, Let The Music Take...", Hill made a "Kickstarter" to help fund the project "not only to help and gain awareness of my music (AND creation of my album which is frequently asked for around live performances throughout the southeast), but, also, to 'cut out the middle man'...!!! So many times, the artist has put forth the effort and, likewise, the consumer's contribution is lost in the filter of trade through the music 'industry'. This is part of our chance to rebuild the relationship between artist/audience and give the contribution on both sides a clear voice in knowing what their time and energy are going!"
I'm going to do my best to talk about how this record makes me feel and the things I hear without giving too much away. This project is truly a treat to listen to and I want you as a listener to not really know what's around the corner. I don't know about you, but I've have never heard anything quite like this.
A very peculiar combination of folk and blues with some psychedelic flavors in between, this album makes you feel as if you're sitting on a front porch on a late summer evening somewhere in rural Louisiana with Hill Roberts himself. When listening in broad daylight, this album has an uncanny ability to put you in a hypnotic state of mind for the entirety of the recording. But I prefer to listen late at night where you will slip away into the abyss of your imagination, hanging on to consciousness by a mere thread.
The first track Do You Understand starts off easy with a banjo and what sounds like an accordion, later leading into Hill's vocals. These ingredients initiate a mood that foreshadows the trials he mentioned above, all the way to the final track where "I wanted to reveal the joy and reward of relief having faced fear. Therein, sits and waits the power in starting over in life." When the background vocals come in, they are absolutely angelic. This is the precise moment when you let the music take you...
Its difficult to describe each track on their own because they fit so well together. Similar to a book, you can't separate each chapter, and review them as their own book. You would just repeat yourself because the tracks fit together so seamlessly. That's not to say every song sounds too similar to one another, it just makes more sense to talk about the album as a whole. There is one exception to this though... Cold Kitchen Blues. This song stand out. Don't get me wrong, it definitely doesn't butt heads with the others, but it's the genre and emotion that's different. This album already has plenty of soul in it from Hill's voice, but he turns it up to ten in this one! Cold Kitchen Blues begins with an acoustic guitar arpeggiating notes alongside a fiddle that heads straight into Hill's soulful voice, instantly making you want to rock back and fourth while stomping you're feet on beats one and three. As Hill starts to sing, the acoustic guitar changes to play a more percussive attitude that really gives you a feel for the slow tempo. I'm not sure what Hill is using as a "kick drum" in this song, but whatever it is has this large, expansive, low frequency reverb. I've always loved the way reverb sounds on certain low frequency instruments. There is a greater sense of "space" around the instrument being played that just makes the reverb feel more real to me.
So how does it sound? The midrange is heavy and the vocals, to some, would be considered muddy, but in this case, I prefer the term "warm". Now I wouldn't be taking this record to an audio show any time soon, but that's not why you need to buy this album for your collection. If you can get past the low fidelity aspect of this record -and the acoustic guitar occasionally having a mildly annoying amount of compression- it starts to sound relaxing and nostalgic. Some of the hallucinatory effects transition the tracks with a massive, reverberant synthesizer that reaches up and out to the boundaries of the soundstage. I can't forget the bass! In this specific instance, it plays deep with heft and weight. It almost sounds thick! The bass in the rest of the album as a whole isn't anything more or less than what you would expect from a recording that is 99% acoustic. The pressing quality is a bit lackluster with minor scuffs and obvious blemishes, but noting bad enough for me to feel uncomfortable playing it on a high dollar cartridge. The edge of the record also feels very rough. Not a big deal for playback, but yet another sign of a lower quality pressing. At least it wasn't cooked for too long, that would be a deal breaker.
Available at Comeback Vinyl