Welcome to My Century
First Appeared at The Music Box, December 2002, Volume 9, #12
Written by T.J. Simon
Three listens. Thatís how long it took me to become absolutely smitten with Bob Hillmanís new CD Welcome to My Century. During the first listen, I noted that the guy sounded a lot like Jules Shear or Freedy Johnston. During the second listen, it became clear that these were some catchy little folk-rock tunes. It wasnít until the third listen that I began to pick up the literate and downright funny lyrics. Since then, the disc has found a permanent home in my CD changer.
A native Californian transplanted to New York, Hillman is a touring singer-songwriter with a knack for droll and humorous lyrics. He is also a natural poet with a flair for packing a lot of information into a pop song. For example, did you know that the worldís largest island has 98% literacy and an icecap seven kilometers thick? Hillman knows, and he packs these and a lot more fun facts into the dynamite, up-tempo number Greenland. He delineates a funny list of his fears in Games and exhibits some innovative rhyming schemes in Valentines Day. Like the finest contemporary songwriters, Hillman steps out of his own skin to assume the posture of different protagonists in his music. In Too Bad for You, Hillman plays a braggart who boasts of his television actor friends, his taste for Russian novels, and his well-adjusted independence. He teases urbanites in Bolted Down, a brash take on New York City life in which everything he owns is attached to immovable objects to thwart burglars.
In recording Welcome to My Century, Hillman gathered together some very talented studio musicians, including Dave Schramm and David Hamburger on electric guitars, to fill out his straightforward, folksy arrangements and turn them into catchy pop-rock gems. Hamburgerís peddle steel injects a touch of twang into The Late Night, and a cello accompaniment provides a touch of class in Las Vegas. Like Jules Shear, Hillman has a limited vocal range and a nasal delivery, but itís more than adequate for his songs. He receives some sweet-sounding harmony help from Lisa Burns and Ina May Wool on I Need You as well as the aforementioned Las Vegas. Hillman also pays tribute to British Invasion-era pop in Movie Star with a lyrical tip of the hat to The Who.
With the glut of mediocre performers stinking up the folk scene these days, itís a breath of fresh air to hear a singer-songwriter such as Bob Hillman. His acerbic wit and sense of irony combined with a masterful, yet simplistic sense of songcraft make Welcome to My Century one of the most likable releases in recent memory. It may take you a few listens before Hillmanís music begins to stick in your head, but that will be time well spent with dividends to follow. Ĺ
Welcome to My Century is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2002 The Music Box