Blues Bytes


February 2023

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Robert Hill & Joanne Lediger

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Robert Hill and Joanne Lediger

With so many new albums being released around the same time, it's sometimes easy to overlook a hidden gem. That's the case with Revelation, the neo gospel/blues release from the duo of Robert Hill & Joanne Lediger.

A digital copy arrived in my inbox back in September. I sampled a few cuts and gave it some airplay last fall. It should have been reviewed right around the time of its release and, quite frankly, it was worthy of being on my top album list for 2022.

Better late than never. It's time to make amends and tell you about his delightful collection of 11 tunes featuring New York area multi-instrumentalist Hill and vocalist Lediger. It's not just Hill and Lediger's contributions to the album, because Hill's daughter, Paulina, shows up on vocals at times, with a strong voice that portends big stuff ahead for her. Rounding out the band are Steve Gelfand on bass and Frank Pagano on drums. Hill spends most of his time playing a National guitar, frequently using a slide on the strings, plays harmonica supported by a rack, and also adds keyboard parts. Four of the 11 cuts are band originals.

Coming out strong is a heavy version of Blind Willie Johnson's "John The Revelator," with Lediger putting plenty of power into her vocals that just sound like the south, while Hill deftly picks the notes on his National guitar and contributes an eerie harmonica solo. Hill absolutely kills it with slide guitar parts om the up-tempo boogie blues/gospel tune "Run On," conveying the feeling that we are all out in a field somewhere at a raucous revival meeting.

Blind Willie Johnson's "Soul Of A Man" has been covered frequently over the years, but this version is one of the best I've heard. Hill sings on this one, with his mysterious, foreboding vocals giving it a dark sound. :Lediger provides harmony vocals, but what really makes this song is the interplay between Hill's guitar and harmonica. Perhaps the best cut of the album, although I reserve the right to frequently change my mind. The daughter Hill takes vocals on the up-tempo blues "Way Down In The Hole," a Tom Waits original but given more of a Latin-ish sound here. Ms. Hill's voice is deeper than that of Lediger, making a nice contrast between the two voices.

"Jesus By The Riverside" is the first original composition, a rollicking gospel tune that is easy to envision being from nearly a century ago. Lediger's vocals put out a revival meeting vibe with plenty of range and emotion, and Hill puts in a stunning slide guitar solo. The tempo slows considerably for another original, the very bluesy "Pay One Way Or Another," an indictment to those who might not act as religious as they claim to be. It's easy to fall into a trance through the progression of this number. Hill's harmonica and guitar provide the lead-in to another Blind Willie Johnson country gospel song, "It's Nobody's Fault But Mine," with Lediger's vocals ranging far and wide, and the informal feel of the song projects memories of a backyard gathering in a house in the woods.

Hill returns on vocals on his own blues shuffle, "A Devils' Fool," a more urban sound than the rest of the album. Paulina Hill is back at the mic for a cover of the well-worn classic, "Samson And Delilah," with her voice just full of power here while traversing over top of her dad's slide guitar accompaniment. Mr. Hill has won songwriting awards for "Preacher's Blues," as he opens it with his slide guitar and harmonica before Lediger jumps in with shouting vocals as she pours out her troubles to that indifferent preacher.

Closing the album is one of its gems, "Jesus On The Mainline," with all three singers taking lead vocals at times and then also providing harmony backing. It's a pleasant song yet amped up with a very strong slide guitar solo by Hill. A great ending to an excellent and surprising album.

I'm glad that I finally got a review of Revelation up on the Blues Bytes site. It really is a very fine collection of tunes, with plenty of heart and soul throughout.

What got me back to Revelation was hearing from Hill about the song that he did with outstanding singer S.JĀ on the recent Blind Raccoon Nola Blue Collection, Volume Five, reviewed in this month's What's New section. It's an outstanding number, and now I can't wait to hear the full album that will be out later this year. Man, there sure is some good stuff coming out of New York state, thanks in part to Robert Hill and his various ensembles. Be sure to pick up Revelation right now, and then try to wait patiently for the upcoming album from Hill and S.JĀ.

--- Bill Mitchell



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