Reckless Steamy Nights featuring The Robert Hill Band
The Robert Hill Band is no stranger to the JSJBF, having participated as a duo in our International Blues Competition and Blue Collar Blues. Riding high on the release of the album, “Revelation,” created during the pandemic and released last fall, the band has been in high demand. Since the collection of seven traditional songs and four originals dropped, it has charted here in the States, reaching #1 in the Gospel Blues listings, as well similarly in much of Europe and Australia. This has led to a string of shows in the Metropolitan area with a stop at the packed Red Bank Woman’s Club for the initial Reckless Steamy Nights show of the year. Robert’s guitar, including signature slide playing and harmonica, were accompanied by singer Simone, bass player Steve Gelfand, and drummer Eric Puente. Robert and Simone recently cut his composition, the single “Maybe You Will Some Day,” which will appear on the forthcoming compilation from Blind Raccoon Records next month.
The band led off with Robert’s “Skin Game,” a song which showcased Simone’s powerful vocals. He is not just a musician, but is also steeped in the history of the blues. Before launching into “Killer Diller,” he informed the song, as well as others such as “When the Levee Breaks,” made famous by Led Zeppelin, were written by Lizzie Douglas, AKA Memphis Minnie. On
“I Put a Spell on You,” he told the story of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, who earned his moniker with the high volume recording of the song that defined his career. I was lucky enough to be in the fourth row at Madison Square Garden in 1981 to see him, as the opening act for the Rolling Stones, arise from a coffin that was wheeled on stage. Dressed in costume complete with bone in his nose and stick with skull attached, he proceeded in his powerful voice to deliver a wildly theatrical performance of the song. From their excellent rendition of that song, Simone proceeded to deliver one of the most powerful versions of Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine,” I have ever heard live. Robert then took the spotlight with his fierce guitar playing on the original instrumental, “The Robusticator,” and was complemented by the rhythm section of Eric and Steve. It was then the band brought to life two tunes from the new CD, his original, “Pay One Way or Another,” and “Way Down in the Hole.” They were enthusiastically received by those in attendance.
Highlights from the second set included the traditional song from the new CD, “Soul of a Man,” which included some of the most beautiful slide work of the evening. Simone’s vocals were then featured in a song made famous by Aretha Franklin, “Do Right Woman.” I don’t want to make comparisons, but it was as good a live rendition as I could imagine. His song, “That’s the Last Time,” had them dancing in the hall and the alcove! A duet by Robert and Simone on Tedeschi Trucks Band’s “Midnight in Harlem,” was a spot-on choice to do for this band as they have a similar vibe. The Willie Dixon penned “Wang Dang Doodle” had the crowd in a party mood and a rousing version of Junior Parker’s “Mystery Train,” made famous by Elvis and performed in the Memphis blues style, was a fitting finale as our IBC solo/duo representative, Jonathan Kalb was advancing to the finals in Memphis at about the same time.
If you couldn’t make the show, The Robert Hill Band will be at the Lizzie Rose Room on February 25th. They are not to be missed.
The next Reckless Steamy Nights concert is Friday, February 24th.