Friday, November 23, 2012

The strange songs of King Solomon Hill

One of my favorite things about the BLUES is how songs nearly 90 years old can still shock with their air of mystery.
The six known songs of Joe Holmes, a.k.a. KING SOLOMON HILL, fit this bill.
Strange guitar pickings and a high, clear tenor voice spill out of the speakers on tracks such as "Down on My Bended Knee" and "Whoopee Blues."
Not much is known about Hill/Holmes, except that he was a hobo who somehow found himself inside an antiquated recording studio.
Mystery exudes from the music as well as the man.
The Belgian-born American writer LUC SANTE described Hill as "an extreme case, an individualist who came from no identifiable school and left no immediate progeny."
Of Hill's documented songs, Sante wrote:
"They are among the strangest in the blues. The beat of 'The Gone Dead Train,' for example, varies constantly -- each vocal line is of a different length, as are the guitar fills -- and the whole thing constantly threatens to break down into formlessness. But it has its own logic, at once musical (the changes of the fills effectively correspond to those of the vocals without merely echoing them) and conversational; or maybe the word would be poetic -- his metric anarchy, startling in popular song, evokes the kind of unscannable but audibly dynamic music you find in the most rigorous free verse."


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