Jammerzine has an exclusive interview with the mastermind of multiple masterful projects. I am speaking of Brett Hill, founder member of Hill Spirits, Nineteen Thirteen, and Brother Hill.
In today’s interview, we get to the heart of those projects as well as into the mind of a true musician. We go in-depth into the tracks of Brett’s new Brother Hill album titled ‘Blackfish’ and the styles of music Brett culminates into his signature sound.
BLACKFISH by Brother Hill
The ‘Blackfish’ album is, in a phrase, a musician’s album. With massive variations of acoustic guitar that, to me as a guitarist myself, dominate this album. I could listen to the guitar all day, but there is way, way more in ‘Blackfish. There is clarity, broadness, diversity, and sheer originality.
Asking me what is my favorite song will depend on when you ask me. I am consistently changing my mind as to what my favorite track on this album is. The stylistic shifts between songs are continental. And, as you will hear about more in the interview, the instruments are all acoustic and real. There is no synth whatsoever. And the instrumentation is wide in scope and spans many facets from background accompaniment to lead.
‘Blackfish’ is an album that will welcome new fans and hug current fans of Brett and any of his projects. But what it will also do is become a part of your life. Whether you’re a musician or not, ‘Blackfish’ will create a soundtrack for your next memory.
The Hiddensee Saga continues, as a primordial fish crawls out of the ocean and on to dry land. This is an album meant to honor the ancestors and the lessons they teach.
Blackfish is also a meeting of the waters, so to speak; a two-part album, both sides meant to reflect each other while telling their own parts of the story. Side one begins with a journey down the Seine River one thousand years ago by my ancestor Hrolf, whereas side two begins with a journey down the Danube River by me in the 21st century. Reflections of the elders ring throughout time and space.
Side one covers certain timeless characters of the pantheon that I’ve formed in my wanderings. Characters like Belarusian folk hero Mikolai Tarasiuk, who lived alone in a small village in an ancient forest for twenty years just to keep the memory of his village alive, and like Black Haw Viburnum, that blessed understory shrub that teaches us the grace of accepting ones place. Then from the Blessed Madonna and incarnations of Mother Nature in Her many guises, to a nameless little fish swimming deep in a canyon in the ocean. “No Latin name for an unknown beast.” These are some of my teachers that have merited song, and they are exalted first and foremost on this work.
This contrasts to side two, which covers lessons learned and garnered in my experiences across this world, from reckoning with my chronic lateness while staring out a fourth-story window in L’viv Ukraine, to recognizing what I’m truly grateful for after surviving a devastating tornado at home in Dayton Ohio. Of utmost importance in all this is embracing the gratitude I have for my family and loved ones, realizing, “All I wanna do is make ’em proud.”
So, in a way, one could say side one is about the teachers while side two is about the lessons.
The album was recorded over the course of 2020 with some tracks going as far back as 2017. I am blessed for this album to have showcase nine of the best instrumentalists I play with, from cellists to trumpeters to banjo-pickers to fiddlers, and some of my absolute favorite voices to sing alongside to boot. From the crooning of Appalachian Hill Spirits in Western Plains to a gripping symphony of strings on LMAIYSMOITO, this record is crafted from a deep, dark place where spirits and old souls congregate.
Featured image by Mallory Landis.
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