God knows I've tried liking Bryan Adams and Huey Lewis but have failed miserably. The reason? Too slick, too formulaic, too much a case of swallowing so much of what had come before and adding too little. But these guys, probably due to the injection of many intense punk days influencing them, are fresh, real, and vital. Interestingly, front man John Rafferty is an ex-NYPD cop and the bassist and drummer are firefighters, retired and active respectively. Influenced by Dylan and similar of-the-day antecedents, the entire sound is indeed of an older time, cleaving closely to the streets and fields, the commons, not penthouse suites and gala charity balls.
Campfire Song injects Tom Petty into the mix along with a bit of Robbie Robertson but the echo of The Smiths and Morrissey make their way as well, and not just on this song but elsewhere. Folk is the strongest current, but it's well seasoned with rock and a bit of country by way of Steve Earle and Dwight Yoakum, maybe a skosh of the Textones. The Last Beauty Queen sports lightly pronounced Appalachian roots, but the lyrics are pure Cohen, Chapin (Harry), and Henley. It may even be that the simpler, non-glassine production work provides the key to the contrast mentioned earlier: when listening to Bryan Adams, I always feel like I have to make sure I'm still living in a three-dimensional world whereas Pill Hill Radio comes straight from a jamboree, a Saturday party in the back yard, or a comfortable pub.
Thus, prepare to step back in time with this group, back to when heart and unaffectedness mattered, when your chops reflected the way you thought, not the artificialities of a multi-million dollar mixing board and ten gazillion devices. This CD's spirit derives from the days when the Velvet Underground, Joan Baez, the ever-morphing Bobby Zimmerman, Tim Buckley, and a highly inspirational cross section of musicians were writing and singing from heart, sinew, and gut…though there's a definite latterday energy, frankness, and defiance of convention from—again: from the punk milieu—that makes the spark flare up with a new wrinkle.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles