Adam Hill reminds me of older Old 97s, when Rhett Miller still wrote stripped down alt-country tunes peppered with intriguing narrators and odd details. On Them Dirty Roads, the Bellingham, Wash., musician crafts Americana songs filled with images of gold-lit cottonwoods, whiskey days, endless highways, rusted telephones and Wyoming skies. His descriptions of Angeline in "Angeline the Baker"—how the sun shows through her hair as though her head sprouted poppies—show he's a natural storyteller.
Hill's intermetzzos, prelude and coda add a welcome experimental noise element to the album in between otherwise unclouded folk-country tunes. Those recesses include the sounds of radio station static, teapots whistling, car engines starting and other mysterious sounds like what could be the stoking of fire coals and distant thunder.
Only a few times does Hill slip into cliché or overly rhymed poetry, like in "Fueled Up," which features a tired blues riff. And because 85 percent of the album shines brightly, those moments seem especially disappointing. It's a strong album, though, and Hill's added textures—lonely trumpets, clinking glass, the ruminating hum of fiddle strings and piano that sounds like soft rain falling—give it both gravity and romantic glow.
Adam Hill plays Zootown Brew Friday, Aug. 28, at 8 PM. Free.