For Gregg Hill, the city of New Orleans brought out the performer in him.
Despite writing his own songs since the seventh grade, Hill did not truly feel like a musician until he moved to the city five years ago. Now, he has released his new album, Bayou St. John—a timelessly charming love letter to the simple life and, ultimately, New Orleans itself.
On Bayou St. John, Hill recruited some of New Orleans’ best and brightest for his rhythm section—Roland Guerin, renowned bassist and vocalist who also co-produced the album, and drummer Doug Belotte. With this small but mighty group as well as several co-writers and backing vocalists, Hill has crafted a project that reflects the heart of the New Orleans Americana scene as well as his own vision.
The album’s opening track, “Places in Between,” introduces a mellow, relaxed feeling that will carry the listener through the collection as though they’re floating peacefully down the Mississippi River. The song touches on themes of daily life—work, chores, and big dreams—and the song’s style and sound reflect the feel of the lyrics perfectly.
On this ode to his beloved city, “New Orleans Again,” Hill delivers a charming feeling of contentment that is palpable to the listener, even if they’ve never stepped foot in New Orleans themselves. Lines like “New Orleans again, New Orleans again / Wash me clean in your healing rain,” demonstrate a very real love for this place that has provided Hill with inspiration and peace. The easygoing guitar rhythms that carry the song offer the listener Hill’s same sense of quiet appreciation for The Big Easy, resulting in a song that is both engaging and nostalgic.
Despite its short duration, “One Minute Song,” serves as one of the album’s highest points. With a ¾ time signature, the change of pace of this song keeps the audience on their toes while delivering woefully relatable lyrics and classic instrumentals. The track opens with the lines, “Oh, the beads of rain roll down the windowpane / And they gather in a pool on the sill / And I’m thinking how you’re far off in some cold, lonely place / And I’m wondering if you’re thinking of me still,” rendering the song immediately emotional, sympathetic, and humbly beautiful.
The album’s sixth track, “Big Blue Moon,” brings out yet another classic New Orleans groove. Opening with a low-key walking bass line, the song feels perfect for a slow-dance yet also holds a pulsing rhythm that’s sure to make you tap your feet to the beat. Lyrics like “And I love you, I really really really love you / And I’m thinking of all the things we could do, me and you / Under the big blue moon” create a romantic vibe that is both captivating and catchy, as well as effortlessly smooth and sweet.
The final song of the album, “Old Like Me,” is a charming and almost John Prine-esque tune about Hill and his guitar. The lyrics are humorous and relatable to musicians or to anyone who has grown attached to an object that they care about. On this track, Hill talks to the audience as if he’s performing live, which serves as a fun and endearing way to conclude a very clever and well-crafted album.
Hill will be performing a slew of shows in the coming months in places like New York, Georgia, Florida, and of course his beloved city of New Orleans.