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Johnny Hiland – All Fired Up
Seems as though Johnny Hiland’s had the limelight here a bit recently and since he coincidentally released a new album that seems like plenty good enough reason to write even more about him.
If I was held at gunpoint while in the mouth of a great white shark strapped to a warhead being fired into the sun forced to summarize this album in one word it would be “crimany.”
If you’ve heard any of Hiland’s playing before then you pretty much don’t need to keep reading this because you’ve already seen the light. You already know what Hiland’s all about and all you need to know is he did not suddenly release a compilation of droning drop-D power chords while moping about being an angst filled teenager.
If by some unfortunate circumstance of your life to date you haven’t heard of Hiland then I’m about to give you an elbow drop of awesome because that’s exactly what All Fired Up is. Awesome. There isn’t a single note out of place on the entire album. There is plenty of variety to the song styles, from ballads, swing, and blues to rock and metal (or heavy rock if a metal extremist is reading this. Don’t jump down my throat). The recording is also very straight forward without a lot of layering. I’m pretty sure every song on this album could’ve been recorded on an 8-track recorder. Some maybe even a 4-track. Up front, straight forward, honest to God, good, old-fashioned, guitar music.
And how could I write about this without covering Hiland’s technique along the merry little way? His performance is so spot on it just seems unreal. There isn’t one aspect of technique that doesn’t seem masterfully executed from simpler, more overlooked things like dynamics, muting, and using chords in his leads to his delicate use of the whammy bar and his own style of chicken pickin. And the boy sings too. There are a couple of vocal tracks on there too. He’s a country singer. He sounds good with his music. He doesn’t suddenly do opera or Bruce Dickenson so what more do you need to know?
The additional musicians should not be overlooked either. Stu Hamm covers the bass and Jeremy Colson works the drums, both of which get a few shots to show us how it’s done. Jesse Bradman plays the keyboards and as good as he is he sticks to the background a bit more. No keyboard solos out of the blue. This isn’t some pretentious progressive metal band.
Overall it’s an incredible album. If you’re into Hiland and you haven’t picked this one up yet that should be on your to do list. If you’re the arch nemesis of country or just plain don’t like good stuff then this isn’t for you.