Michael Hill – Living Legend of New York Blues

Published By:
Lamont Jack Pearley


Raised in the South Bronx, Michael Hill’s early exposure to music included Harry Belafonte, Jackie Wilson, Elvis Presley and many other artists heard on his father’s records. He took piano lessons at age seven and sang in school and the church choir as he grew up. Hearing Jimi Hendrix changed his life, inspiring his love of the electric guitar.   During High School years in the East Village, Hill and friends spent every weekend listening from the street outside at the Filmore East and other New York concert venues, giving Hill the opportunity to see Jimi Hendrix and other influences, such as Jeff Beck, Cream, B.B. King, Albert King and Buddy Guy. Hill began playing guitar at age18 and started the band Wild Honey in 1973, playing popular soul and funk, along with occasional rock or blues tunes. In 1985, he was invited to join the band of poet/performer Sekou Sundiata and keyboardist Doug Booth. The band included Vernon Reid, who introduced Hill to the Black Rock Coalition. Hill played simultaneously in the rock bands, Fitz, and the New York Band. Immersion in original music, combined with the urging of friends and associates to start his own band, led to songwriting and the formation of Michael Hill’s Bluesland, out of which spun the Blues Mob.  With the Blues Mob, Hill has five highly successful CDs to his credit: Electric Storyland Live (03), Suite: Larger Than Life (01), Europe only: Larger Than Life (01), New York State Of Blues (98), Have Mercy! (96), and Bloodlines (94). Over the years, he has performed or recorded with Little Richard, Carla Thomas, Harry Belafonte, Archie Bell and B.B. King, and has jammed with numerous blues masters, including Buddy Guy and Luther Allison. He is recognized as one of modern blues’ “most talented songwriters and guitarists” (Living Blues).

New York’s Michael Hill’s Blues Mob play deep blues for the body and soul, both as an astonishing live act–just ask any of the thousands of people mesmerized through a rainstorm at the 1996 Chicago Blues Festival–and as a rip-roaring and award-winning recording group, Michael Hill’s Blues Mob stands out in the small circle of young, African-American blues artists bent on keeping the blues alive by taking the music into previously uncharted territory. “Hill is truly the bluesman piloting the music into the next century,” proclaimed Blues Revue. Michael Hill’s Blues Mob bring raw sweat, energy and intensity to every song they play. Hill’s impassioned, sometimes humorous songs, his sweetly soulful singing voice and explosive guitar playing are perfectly complemented by the expert musicianship of the Blues Mob–Pete Cummings on bass, E.J. “The Professor” Sharpe on keyboards and Tony Lewis on drums. With their new Alligator release, New York State Of Blues (AL 4858), Michael Hill’s Blues Mob continue to blaze a modern blues trail filled with cutting edge tunes and foot-stomping rhythms. Through his original songs (Hill wrote or co-wrote nine of the album’s 11 songs) and formidable musicianship, Hill and his band boldly raise the bar for their contemporaries meanwhile raising the roof wherever they play. “Incendiary,” shouted Guitar Shop. “A wonderful melting pot of R&B, blues, fusion, reggae, and balls-out heavy rock.” But it’s not just about the fiery music. “For me,” says Hill, “writing is as important as playing guitar. The blues is about telling stories. The guitar playing and musicianship are important as long as they’re serving the song or story. The lyrics give the playing and singing something to do.”

New York State Of Blues is a tour-de-force of tough, inner city scenes, lovers’ temptations and blues celebrations co-existing in Hill’s guitar drenched, polyrhythmic universe. From the searing opener Long Hot Night (co-written by Vernon Reid) to the prophetic and humorous Young Folks Blues to the reinventions of the Temptations’ Papa Was A Rolling Stoneand Stevie Wonder’s Livin’ For The City to the album’s closer, the soulful and hopeful Never Give Up On You, Michael Hill’s Blues Mob grab their listeners with their every-note-matters musicianship and draw them in with Hill’s storytelling skills and his powerful vocals.

“Michael Hill is the hippest bluesman around,” cheered the Philadelphia Daily News. “Radiating energy, warmth and social enlightenment, Hill emerged from the South Bronx to give blues a new meaning, direction and sound.”


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