Review: Steve Hill ‘Dear Illusion’

Steve Hill, Dear Illusion

By Mike O’Cull

Juno Award-winning multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and one-man-band Steve Hill rocks out all over his new record Dear Illusion.

The set is out on No Label Records and finds the unstoppable Hill getting down on a fresh set of material that was originally supposed to come out in April of 2020 but Covid put a stop to that. The silver lining to this particular cloud is that Hill was able to keep working on the album, refining it into the state it’s in now. Hill is a beyond-talented guitarist, singer, drummer, harmonica player, songwriter, and producer with a sound and vision unlike anything you’ve ever heard.

Looking to expand his game and celebrate 25 years as a recording artist, Steve Hill brought in seven-time UK Blues Awards Drummer of the Year Wayne Proctor (A.A. Williams, Oli Brown, King King, Ben Poole) and monster horn section The Devil Horns to help keep things spicy this time out. It worked fabulously and Dear Illusion is easily Hill’s best work to date.

Steve Hill is one of Canada’s most well-known roots musicians and has been throwing down epically ambitious recordings and performances for more than two decades. He has won a JUNO Award, played concertos with Kent Nagano and the Montreal Symphonic Orchestra, won countless blues awards, and played every stage there is to play. His songs combine rock, blues, soul, ideas with a personal intensity that gives each of them a distinct character. Hill’s guitar work is tight and mighty and his voice is open and expressive.

“All About The Love” gets Hill’s party started with a tough-toned blues lick that leads into a chugging groove. It then gives way to a double-time chorus that packs a ecstatic gospel heart and is topped off with horn blasts. Hill’s vocals stoke the fire on the microphone until it’s blazing and it’s a guarantee you won’t be able to take your ears off him. It’s a high-energy opening track that’s ideally suited for its job.

“All About The Love”

 
The uptempo “Keep It Together” walks a sweet line between soul and rock and roll that give it a wide appeal. Hill rips on some slide guitar here and his rhythm playing is physical and full of life. Steve seems to have a knack for using the basic elements of rock music in a way that feels fresh and invigorating. He has that intangible, attention-grabbing quality all great performers exhibit and he’ll flat-out blow you away with it.

Hill’s title cut “Dear Illusion” shifts gears again into a powerful heartbreak ballad style that shows Steve to be capable of delivering the emotional goods. The Devil Horns do an outstanding job on this track, making the vibe complete below Hill’s melancholy lyrics. It’s a pleasing bit of nuance that fits well amongst all the rock tunes on the album.

“Follow Your Heart” is an uplifting R&B-informed mid-speed tune that takes an encouraging tone and employs it to get listeners moving in a more positive direction. Hill slings some of his most-melodic guitar lines on the album here, casually dropping licks that will make you want to learn to play them.

Hill gets lowdown and funky on the gravelly “She Gives Lessons In Blues.” The title gives the topic away but Hill’s approach to it is progressive and compelling. Wayne Proctor drums the daylights out of it, giving it a huge groove. It’s a heavy-duty, dance floor-filling tune that’s going to wake people up everywhere it gets played. Be sure to listen deep into the album so you don’t miss it.

Dear Illusion is a wonderful set of new music that will keep Steve Hill fans old and new tuned in and jamming. He’s a major talent with one of the most unique sounds in roots music today. You really should be cranking him up right now.

Steve Hill, Dear Illusion, album cover

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