Al Hill “… unaffected vocals and rolling keyboard… swings relentlessly.” (Living Blues Magazine)
Nashville-based songwriter/keyboard player/guitarist/singer Al Hill took not one, but two top honors at the 33rd Annual International Blues Challenge held on Saturday, February 5, 2017 at the Orpheum Theater in Memphis, Tennessee.
Hill won first place in the Solo/Duo category. He also won Best Solo Guitarist in the Best Instrumentalist category. He was Music City’s Solo/Duo emissary to the IBCs, having won the local finals sponsored by the Nashville Blues Society in October 2016 at the Hard Rock Café. Nearly 250 blues artists from across the United States and 14 countries overseas competed in the event sponsored by The Blues Foundation.
Hill is the first Nashville-based blues artist to win this prestigious honor, beating out 92 other Solo/Duo competitors.
Al Hill grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He drew his early inspiration from his older brothers’ record collections – and (as soon as he could drive) from the vibrant Detroit blues scene. From his earliest days playing in bands at 15, he’s built a journeyman career based on a deeply soulful approach to roots-rock and blues. Hill released his first record, Willie Mae, in 1998 – a blend of covers and originals the Detroit Free Press dubbed “sublime.” In 2000, his band won the Best Unsigned Band competition at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago. Hill was voted Outstanding Blues Artist at the 2005 Motor City Music Awards.
Since 2002, Hill has worked as music director for three-time Grammy nominee Bettye LaVette, touring the world and appearing on the David Letterman, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien shows and many more. He’s also played or toured with Delbert McClinton, T. Graham Brown, Mike Farris, Wanda Jackson, Johnny Johnson, and Detroit greats Johnnie Bassett, Alberta Adams and Sir Mack Rice. “I just think he’s a great singer, and a great player!” (Bettye LaVette) In 2008, Al Hill moved to Nashville where he performs, writes, produces, and gives lessons.
Of his IBC victory, Hill says, “From the first round in the back room of a Nashville music store to the Orpheum stage in Memphis – this has been so powerful and inspiring. I was blown away by the incredible acts I saw along the way. The blues can be a lonely business but it’s a community too. I know that now, more than ever.”