|© J. Adrian Wylie|
by Stephanie Kadel-Taras
"We are here," proclaims the title to the debut CD from Whit Hill and the Postcards. They have every right to call your attention to the fact. This musical communiqué is everything you'd hope for from a band that unites the talents of Whitley Setrakian Hill, long known around town as a dancer and more recently as a singer-songwriter with something to say, and her husband, Al Hill, the talented local bluesman who leads the Love Butlers.
I'd seen Whit play a solo acoustic set before, but backed by Al on guitar and keyboards, with warm bass (Patrick Prouty) and understated drums (Tim Gahagan), she has become a polished musical force not to be missed. After only one listen to the CD and a show at the Ark, I found myself singing along to the ready melodies and memorable words.
While they promote their sound as "alt-country," their range of song styles is hard to categorize. Al plays boogie-woogie or swingin' jazz piano, country-fried guitar, slinky slide, or whatever else Whit's compositions demand. There's the expected fem-girl folk, and the obvious heart-wrenching influence of Lucinda Williams, but there's also toe-tapping R&B, and even an entertaining zydeco two-step called "Maddie," in which Whit recalls her brief, volatile friendship with Madonna when they were both dance students at the U-M.
Whit often sings with a pretty-baby voice like Emmylou Harris's. She also has a haunting lilt for sexy numbers about hiding out in a train's sleeping car or making love on the breakfast table ("Please pass the salt, please pass the sugar, please pass you"). Although she and Al harmonize on several tunes, on stage they keep their emotional distance from one other. It comes off as a shyness that's kind of sweet.
Whit has written more than one song from the perspective of the homely girl who has accepted her fate. She's hardly homely, but she's no babe, either her stage presence does not play up
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