You do not really expect many ukulele players to pop up in Canada, let alone classically trained ones. James Hill seems to be somewhat the exception to this rule. Although, he certainly took the long route towards where he is today. James Hill began on the ukulele when he was a young child. He followed a program to follow a technique pioneered by J. Chalmers Doane. Around this time, the school he attended was looking to train up a lot of musicians using this technique. Eventually, they formed the Langley Ukulele Assemble and Hill performed here for the rest of his schooling life. He then went on to earn a Bachelor of Music degree.
The unique thing about James Hill is that you can’t really just go and see him perform. If you do, then you can expect there to be a ukulele workshop afterwards. This is a guy which loves to teach ukulele, and when he is not performing, this is very much all that he does. He travels around the globe teaching the instrument, in fact.
Despite Hill being a classically trained musician, his albums never really gravitate towards the classical side. Instead, they have a bit more rocky and edgy feel to them. Some people have likened him to Jack White (of the White Stripes), just on the ukulele. We would be hard-pressed to disagree with this, if we are honest. That being said, a lot of his music does cover different genres. You have country ballads, classical songs, and some songs which can be compared to a bit of punk rock.
The Old Silo
This is the latest album to come from James Hill. He, of course, plays the ukulele on it. One of the stand-out things about this album is that he has been able to attract guests to play on the album. Amazing guests. He has Anne Janelle playing the cello and singing some harmony. He has Plaskett playing drums and singing some harmony, and countless other guest musicians joining the ranks.
To get an idea as to the type of music James includes on ‘The Old Silo’ let’s go by his description; “The Old Silo invites you into a world of new beginnings, old regrets, might-have-beens, burning questions, beautiful women, horny geezers and gold diggers.”. Probably as far from classical as you can get, right?
Man With a Love Song
Just before ‘The Old Silo’, he released Man With a Love Song. This album really shook up the way in which people categorize Hill. This album takes somewhat of a laid-back approach, as you can probably guess from the name of it. Beautiful, haunting strings dominate the love ballads found in Man With a Love Song. It is an amazing adventure from start to finish.
True Love Don’t Weep
This is the first album where Anne Janelle joined him, and the pairing of the ukulele and cello is something which really needs to be heard to be believed. This is the album which really put Hill onto the map.