McDougall is one of those guys who I’ve always liked and who’s hung out on the periphery of my regular rotation due to some reason or another. He’s one of those artists that I’ve really and truly enjoyed in smaller doses but never really inspired a binge of listening to an album over and over again with the exception of his project Brothers of the Last Watch with John Johnson of Hillstomp (I still binge play that one). Reaching for Some Light changes that completely as I’ve been listening to it for three days solid at this point. I don’t know if it’s the subject matter, the full band sound, the lack of instrumental tracks, or something else entirely but it really speaks to me on a level that goes beyond liking it enough to pull it out every once in a while and giving it a listen. This is not a record that would collect dust in my collection.
There is a definite departure from the folksy roots that attracted some to Scott McDougall and I think that the stories being painted here are perfectly suited for the style of music that was chosen as a canvas. There’s a thread of hope running through this music that the world needs right now and that’s why I chose today to write about this album. There are times when things seem awfully bleak and those time seem to be coming more frequently. That could be because I’m getting older, because of a 24 hour news cycle in an always connected society, or because things are actually worse. I don’t care what the root cause might be, the fact is that hope is getting harder to hold on to. Music is one of the most important things in my life and I rely on it to provide many things and right now hope is one of those things and Reaching for Some Light provides a spark that’s easy to stoke in to something more. Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a happy album per se, it’s got it’s darker moments for sure but that thread of hope is commodity that’s important these days.
As far as the music itself goes McDougall played most of the instruments and while there are some very fleshed out tracks there are still some stripped down compositions. I feel like the mindfulness that went in to the instrumentation of each track shows just how much of himself Scott poured in to making this album. While the instrumentation changes as necessary this is still a very cohesive album that’s easy to listen to all the way through. When it’s over it leaves me with both a desire for more while at the same time a sense of completeness. That may sound contradictory but what I want is more like from McDougall and at the same time I can’t help but feel that this installment, this record, is a complete work with nothing feeling left unsaid.
The lyrics feel like Scott is reaching inside himself and sharing more reality with us. In a complete change in what I usually find attractive, the blood and guts style of so many of my favorites, there is a richness here in discovering musings on things that are good in life. Hope, love, and even faith all play a role in these songs which seems very real. Every time I listen to this one it feels like I’m being reminded that no matter how dark things look, how bleak our prospects seem, that I’ve got it pretty damn good and I should look at my life and be grateful for what I have and actually take the time to think on those things. I don’t know about you but I need a reminder of that more often than not. I really think that the production, instrumentation, lyrics, track order, and everything else all play together in such a perfect manner that Reaching for Some Light can be nothing less than Essential Listening and I hope you feel the same. There are times when the title describes everyone I know and maybe this will help someone find that sliver of light they need to step over whatever life is putting in their path. You can grab this one on Bandcamp along with his other albums.
I mentioned a lot of things in the article so here’s some extra linkage for you:
McDougall’s official site
McDougall’s FB Page
Brothers of the Last Watch on Bandcamp
Brothers of the Last Watch on FB
Hillstomp’s official site
Hillstomp on FB
Hillstomp on Bandcamp
One man. Scraggly hair. An old guitar that barely stays in tune. Goggles on his head. Another man behind a drum set made of brake drums, 5 gallon buckets, cracked cymbals and a washboard hanging from his neck. See them separately and you’re forming your “I can’t give you any money” excuse. See them together and you’re looking for the hat to drop your hard earned money into as your ass tries to shakes itself free of you.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Portland, Oregon’s own Hillstomp.
Hillstomp is Deep Blues Boogie Woogie Band. They remind me of a more lighthearted version of Shake Hands With Shorty-era North Mississippi Allstars, back before the Dickinson boys started taking themselves too seriously. The blues is a genre that’s as much about celebration and release as it is about wallow and despair, and Hillstomp makes you wanna dance.
While Darker The Night doesn’t have quite the same jukejoint at 3:00 am feel as their previous releases, it’s definitely a must hear for fans of the Deep Blues Sound.
Hillstomp – Banjo Song #1
Hillstomp – Cardiac Arrest In D
Hillstomp – You Got To Move
Hillstomp’s Official Site, Hillstomp on myspace, Buy Darker The Night
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the genre that is the Blues is a genre that, while great when heard on studio recordings, is something that is best heard live. As the title of Hillstomp’s latest effort would suggest, it is also best heard after two but before five…in the morning, that is. As I said the last time I wrote about Hillstomp, “Boogie Woogie blues make you hafta dance. Hillstomp is Boogie Woogie Blues.” The live disc makes makes no exception to those statements.
Recorded over two nights in Eugene and Portland, Oregon and coming in at 12 tracks, the disc features covers of tunes from RL Burnside, Mississippi Fred McDowell and Bukka White, with original Hillstomp songs mixed in. If you are a fan of that North Mississippi/Appalachian blues sound, this is a cd you need to check out.
Hillstomp – Rollin’ and Tumblin’
Hillstomp – Poor Black Mattie
Hillstomp – Shake Em On Down
For those of you in the area: Hillstomp will be playing the ridiculously awesome Deep Blues Festival this Saturday.
Hillstomps Official Site, Hillstomp on myspace, Buy After Two But Before Five
Boogie Woogie Blues, like the term, is fun. Boogie Woogie. Shit, the term makes me smile. Say Boogie Woogie fast 5 times….now tell me you ain’t smilin’. If you do I’ma call you a damn liar.
Boogie Woogie is fun to say. Boogie Woogie blues is fun to hear. Boogie Woogie blues make you hafta dance. Hillstomp is Boogie Woogie Blues. They remind me of a more light-hearted version of Shake Hands With Shorty era North Mississippi Allstars, back before the Dickinson boys started getting too serious. Hillstomp makes you wanna dance. My dog has been looking at me like I’m an idiot for the past three days while I roam around the house with the disc on the CD player. My dog can not dance and she does not like when I try to dance with her but the Boogie Woogie insists that we dance. She lacks thumbs….she doesn’t get it. You, on the other hand (ba-da crash), ain’t got that luxury.
If I lived in the Portland area, I’d make a point to see this band on a regular basis, but I live in Florida, so I must listen to the disc and listen I do…often. In fact, often enough to add their current release, The Woman that Ended the World, to the ninebullets Essential Listening list. Fear not you fellow Oregon deprived citizens of the other 49 states, Hillstomp apparently has a live cd coming out some time this summer, and I bet it’ll be fun. ‘Til then, Boogie Woogie to these tracks:
Hillstomp – N.E. Portland 3 A.M.
Hillstomp – Shake It
Hillstomp – Momma Told Pappa
Hillstomp’s Official Site, Hillstomp on myspace, Buy The Woman that Ended the World