If someone was handed a Charles Hill Jr Shootin’ Man vinyl record, they would be hard-pressed to locate the region or era from which it came. When you find out it’s a modern-day man from Cleveland, it will either draw you in or cause you to fold your arms and shoot a sideways glance. But this red-headed young man made a tried, tested and true traditional country and western album.
Each track has classic, well crafted songwriting, from the title track Shootin’ Man to Learnin’ To Get On With My Life (Without Lovin’ You). You can hear his self-professed influences from George Jones to Willie Nelson in his style of singing and the pining for days when this was the way you made a record. Charles has claimed his sound and bathes in the age-old sound that he clearly identifies himself with, while his band does their best to emulate the session musicians of that era, with Al Moss as a cornerstone on pedal steel, Ben Gmetro and Stelianos Simantiris (guitars), Chris Russo (drums) and Mike Allan (bass) filling out the rest of the record’s twangy sound.
My only issues with the album is that I would have liked the song order to be more aware of the flow. It starts a little slow and the gems of the album are more of a surprise when they show up than an expectation. Charles also gets a bit too timeless with his lyrics and I don’t always get the feeling he believes what he is singing; but songs like I Don’t Want to be Reminded and The Best Efforts absolutely ring true when he sings them. The faster songs, including the title track and Mouse Island are just fun, toe-tapping songs. The band respects where the music comes from over anything else, and they want this record to feel cemented in the canon of country and western music that shaped what they do.
If you want a record that helps the afternoon wind away, with life feeling a little slower, love full of pain and heartache, and your solutions involving whiskey, this album is for you.
Photo by Leia Hohenfeld.