Dave Hole "The Live One"

Dave Hole
"The Live One"
Alligator Records ALCD 4890

CD review by Roger-Z (02/11/07)
Appeared in More Sugar, March 2007, P. 8A

Meet Australian Dave Hole, the king of blues-rock slide guitar. Not quite blues, not quite rock, but oh so satifying. Take the blues structure and jack it up 10,000 volts. Remember early Foghat and Seventies English Boogie? How about ACDC? You get the picture.

"The Live One" focuses squarely on Hole's slide guitar and vocals. After seven studio albums, Hole set out to capture the intensity of his live show. You can practically hear the sweat flying off his brow. Throwing caution (and subtlety) to the wind, Hole cranks up the volume to Hendrix-like proportions and lets loose a hurricane of sound.

Dave Hole penned all but three of the compositions. Most follow the standard three chord blues shuffle and deal with women, cars, and guitars. On "Keep Your Motor Running," he suggestively sings, "I don't need no choke, cause she's already hot... She's got twin carburators, the kind I like to tune... Keep your motor running. I want to check your oil..." On "Take Me To Chicago," an Elmore James "Dust My Broom" soundalike, Hole pines for the blues glory days of 1958 southside Chicago. But the exceptions to the formula elevate this album. The delicate, but slightly out of tune instrumental, "Berwick Road," uses gossamer harmonics to evoke a spiritual beauty much like "People Get Ready." On "Purple Haze," the intensity and tone of Hole's guitar brand this song as his own.

In the music industry, everybody knows the money lies in publishing. Dolly Parton originally gave "I Will Always Love You" to Elvis Presley. But his manager,Colonel Tom Parker, would only allow him to cut a tune if Presley got co-writing credit as well as all the publishing rights. Parton refused and instead recorded it as a duet with Porter Wagoner. Of course the song's biggest hit came with Whitney Houston.

In the end, people pay their money to hear Dave Hole's unique, over-the-top, slide playing. Due to a childhood injury, Hole wears the metal slide on his left index finger and drapes his hand over the top edge of the guitar neck. His unusual playing style, coupled with a metal (as opposed to glass) slide, gives Hole a tone unlike anyone else -- slightly reminiscent of Hawaiian steel guitar, but with the intensity of a jack hammer. Hole's concept of the "blues" note (flat third and flat fifth) differs from most Americans in that he plays it slightly sharper. This causes him to sound more Hawaiian and less blues. Sometimes, he hits a note so long and hard that it etches your brain like venemous acid ("Berwick Road," "How Long"). Other cute tricks include see-sawing the volume knob to emulate the sound of a violin ("Berwick Road"), as well as singing in unison with the slide solo ("Bull Frog Blues").

Ably backed by bassist Roy Daniel, keyboardist Bob Patient, and drummers J. Mattes and Ric Eastman (depending on the track), the mix stays firmly fixed on Dave Hole's slide guitar. The album bubbles to a boil on the last two songs -- the original slow blues "How Long," and the venerable, uptempo shuffle, "Bullfrog Blues." The standalone intro solo on "Bullfrog Blues" ranks with the best of Eddie Van Halen and Leslie West. It will sear your brain.

Need a guitar fix and nothing does it for you like slide? Crank up Dave Hole's "The Live One" to 11!

2007 Roger-Z