Adam Hill is singer, songwriter, composer, and multi-instrumentalist who was born in Ohio and now resides in Squamish, BC. His fifth album Old Paint is an all acoustic 12-song collection of traditional folk pieces reimagined in the musician’s signature experimental ‘new-timey traditional’ style.
For such a prolific and talented musician, the results on this record are unfortunately mixed. The album has a very cut and paste, home recording feel to it that does not do this type of music justice. Perhaps it was a conscious choice to steer away from a more traditional folk/bluegrass type record, but it just ends up sounding dull. He does not add much to the music, nothing different from what has been recorded and performed many times over.
Album opener “Cuckoo” is usually played on banjo, but he does it with guitar and mandolin instead. They are well played but nothing exceptional. Same thing for “Rye Whiskey;” Hill has none of the passion or anguish in his voice that is needed to perform these songs. You would be better off checking out Pete Seeger’s rendition of the aforementioned number to hear what I am talking about.
The main issue with this album is Adam Hills’ voice. It is not bad by any means, but he has absolutely no passion in his delivery, something that is required to make for a compelling listen. One must add something more than simply changing some arrangements and lyrics to make it worth a listen. These are songs that have been around since before most of us were born, and it takes a skilled performer to inject some new life into them; something that goes a bit beyond just musicianship.
Take Old Crow Medicine Shows’ remake/completion of Bob Dylan’s “Wagon Wheel” or even Bruce Springsteen’s’ album We Shall Overcome a compilation example. On these recordings, you can hear how much fun the performers are having with someone else’s music, and that makes it a very entertaining listen. Perhaps Adam Hill wants to challenge his audience but despite trying to do something new, he just is not enjoyable.
Hill played almost every instrument and, it is not clear in the album credits if it was a home recording, it most definitely has that home studio feel to it; it is not a good thing in this case. He probably would have been better off sticking a microphone in front of him strumming his guitar; the live off the floor delivery would have been a raw unedited performance. Instead, what you get is a forgettable collection of well performed and re-arranged traditional songs that anyone can skip.
Written By Ben Massicotte
*edited by Danielle Kenedy