" Untainted Midwestern, somewhat retro, heartfelt, homemade rock /psych/Americana."Songwriter/guitarist Billy Alletzhauser continues on his fifth album with his group The Hiders. Sounds on Totem range from Tom Petty to Black Mountain, from Van Morrison to Smashing Pumpkins. Totem was recorded in the dead of winter in a cabin in the hills of Red River Gorge Kentucky. 9 songs that range from rowdy honky tonk to dark "indie" rock to soothing and dreamy folk/psychedelic. Lyrics and performances and recording techniques are honest and untainted by modern pretensions. Any fan of gritty classic rock and heartfelt balladeers will find something to love here in the music made to last.
November 11, 2014 M.Breen -City Beat One of Cincinnati’s musical treasures, The Hiders, returns with another spectacular album, Totem. Despite the winter scene depicted on the cover and the fact that it was recorded last winter in a cabin in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge, Totem is an album of incredible warmth, something that should transfer well to the LP’s vinyl release. The music is more like the warming fire that draws everyone close in the midst of a deep freeze, thanks both to the songwriting and unfussy production. Frontman/songwriter/singer/guitarist Billy Alletzhauser’s songs are brought to life on the album by the excellent current edition of The Hiders, which now features fellow original member Beth Harris on harmony vocals and percussion, bassist Glen May and drummer Brian Moeller.
The Hiders’ sound is a unique brand of rootsy Rock that’s sometimes spacious and ethereal and sometimes relatively straightforward, but almost always transcendent. There is a soulfulness to songs like the creeping “First Real Blues” and the beautiful “Live at the Long Goodbye” that is hard to describe, but that’s part of The Hiders’ magic. Though all are superbly talented musicians, the album works more due to the feel and emotive qualities than any sort of instrumental virtuosity. There is a vibe that just works and sticks with you like a haunting memory after just one listen. When Harris and Alletzhauser’s voices meld together on choruses, for example, they often cause goosebumps. That’s something that has nothing to do with the order of the notes or any sort of musical theory. It’s just great songwriting with equally great, emotive performances.
Totem is a start-to-finish gem (the band will perform the album in order at the release show) that deserves to be experienced as a whole, but certain tracks stand out. “Motherlode” is one of The Hiders’ all-time best songs, a slow-building, psychedelic drone with ominous guitar riffs, some inspired soloing, eerie melodies and a spectacular, serpentine chorus that winds its way into the listener’s consciousness. Elsewhere, “Loaded as a Gun” is a wonderful slice of Hider-ized classic Country; closing track “For the Sun” is a gauzy ballad laced with guest Sylvia Mitchell’s elegant strings; and “She Brings the Fall” is a hazy, dreamlike beauty that adds Middle Eastern-like percussion and melodica to the band’s traditional instrumentation.
Does the band name Ass Ponys ring a bell? No? That’s too bad, because this indie rock band produced a few great records in the 90’s. Maybe you can find the record 'Electric Rock Music' somewhere. Buy it, because even though this record is 20 years old, it’s still a very good one. For about 10 years now, the lead guitarist of this band (Ass Ponys), William ‘Bill’ Alletzhauser, has led a new combo called The Hiders. By the way, what a weird name for a band! The Hiders' fifth release is called 'Totem.' The picture on the album cover says it all: a landscape with snow, rather desolate and quiet, and it makes you think of loneliness and long winter nights. Well, this is the perfect soundtrack for those feelings.
‘Totem’ contains 9 songs and about 48 minutes of music. If I got my math right, the average song length is 5 and a half minutes - no exaggeration! You know, Neil Young composes songs that last 9 to 10 minutes. Bob Dylan did the same thing. And people like them, don’t they? It’s all about the strength of the songs and that’s what this record is all about: good quality! These are all great songs! It starts with the song ‘Mansion,’ which has a “Neil Young meets Tom Petty” atmosphere. This sets the tone for the dark, threatening ‘Motherlode.’ Deep black guitar intro, overruled by a shaky voice and a lot of reverb and the crazy “lay your burden down…” and you are amongst the mosquitoes in that winter landscape.
‘Jesus Was a Cowboy’ reminds me of Neil Young. ‘Loaded as a Gun’ is a classic country song, however, with a modern touch. And my absolute most favorite song of the record is ‘She Brings the Fall’. I don’t think you could easily find a better song! Maybe it’s the melody which makes me write this review, but I can’t help it…over and over and over, I’ve put this song on “repeat.” And trust me, I don’t say such things easily! It lasts 8 minutes and is probably the longest song of the record. And it shows the music of The Hiders is not boring! On the contrary! At first, the record needs a little listening, but once you have heard it 6 or 7 times, you can go with the flow and you know what it is all about.
A special world opens itself with special musicians who have the power to switch atmosphere into music. They make the listeners feel like they’re home! That’s quite special! ‘First Real Blues’ is another favorite song of mine! It took a while (I’m rather slow in understanding) before I found out what makes this record so special. OK, you can tell right from the start that these people can play their instruments very well! However, the duets between Alletzhauser and Beth Harris, who also plays percussion, make you listen to this record over and over again!
I know, this sounds like “writing about sex,” where everybody knows reality is better than fiction. It’s the same with this record, I can try writing about this great record, but the only thing you should do is listen! However, try and check it out yourself, because I don’t think our radio stations formats will easily have airplay for this band. Too bad, because they should! Of course, no promo girl from the record company stopped by with the single.
Oh, I should shut up! Anyways, this record contains lots of cool, classic rock songs which I would love to recommend to everybody who was young in the 70’s or had parents who went to youth clubs. If we place ‘Stairway to Heaven’ as number 1 on the list ‘De Tijdloze’ (check out Studio Brussel, a very popular Belgian radio station) every year, we should at least listen to this record once! Aha! That’s my idea!
(Dani Heyvaert) www.rootstime.be