The Sid Hillman Quartet
The Sid Hillman Quartet’s slow-burning music evokes images of a late-Night drive through the desert – dry and sparse, until the honest nature of Sid’s lyrics flows through in a flash flood of warmth.
“The moody, atmospheric music sounds simple on the first spin, but it’s really multi-layered.” — NEW YORK POST
“The muted melancholia of Sid Hillman’s singing and playing transcends any narrow stylistic boundaries.” — BILLBOARD
“Hillman – like Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch and a few others, strives for Art over image-conscious mass appeal.” — FORT WORTH WEEKLY
“Like Clem Snide or Willard Grant Conspiracy, Hillman writes elliptical, exquisitely sad songs, images of melancholy hope and decay; delivers them in an untutored voice and sets them afloat on a minimalist mirage of atmospheric twang.” — NO DEPRESSION
Each music has its own time. Music to get up and work by, music in cars and for elevators. Music to sleep and to wake up again. And there is music beside time, space, and function. Like the songs and tunes of the Sid Hillman Quartet. Music like a hot-water bag on an icy cold winter’s day. Music that sounds like a super group built on Calexico, Cowboy Junkies, Vic Chesnutt and Spain. ,Tercero” is the title of the third CD by this Quartet, that indeed features four musicians: Jack Faith (guitar., lap steel, backup vocal), Jim Cheydleur (bass), Michael Taklender (drums, percussion), and last but not least singer/songwriter/producer/arranger, Sid Hillman.
Sid’s place isn’t the honky-tonk but the elegant western bar with smooth jazz music playing in the background and a slowly rotating mirror ball hanging from the ceiling. He’s a master of well-tempered sounds and he surely knows that instruments need space and freedom to breath and to spread their emotions. If so a band can reveal more than the sum of its parts. Not to forget the arrangements. They demand attention and reward everyone for listening. And you’ll see: the man knows how to take his time.
In fact you won’t find any rush in Sid Hillman’s career. After studying philosophy at UCLA it took Hillman some time to be discovered by LA’s music scene. “The music scene for my work couldn’t be worse. Everything in LA is very ‘scene’ oriented and I’ve never been part of a scene”, Hillman describes his love-hate relationship with the city of angels. “‘Tercero’ features some great photography (taken by Paul Beauchemin) of downtown. Unfortunately most people who visit Los Angeles never see the greatest parts of the city.”
But after the release of two solo albums and one EP the musical maverick found the attention he deserved. In 1999 he met Jim Cheydleur, Michael Taklender and guitarist Raymond Richards. Altogether they formed the Sid Hillman Quartet releasing a self-titled debut album in 2000, followed by a three-song EP the same year.
Sid’s career was ready to start. But which career are we talking of? For years Sid has worked as an actor, too. (He lives in LA, doesn’t he?). In fact frequent movie goers might have seen the 36-year-old acting in films like “City of Angels”, “Arlington Road”, the wonderful “Ghost World” and even in “Men in Black II” (not to forget episode 7.20 of “E.R”!). Hillman: “In the past it’s been a great day job for me and has allowed me to spend all the time I want to on my music. Right now I’m not doing too much acting but have been running a letterpress (an antique form of printing) out of my house to pay the bills.”
In 2001 the Sid Hillman Quartet supported Mojave 3 on a sold out tour throughout the US and Canada. A year later the second album was released by Californian label Innerstate records in the U.S., and by the U.K. label Evangeline Recorded Works in Europe. Richards was replaced by Jack Faith. “Volume 2” not only convinced critics but also the audience. In June 2002 the Sid Hillman Quartet won the L.A. Weekly People’s Choice Award for “Best Country Artist” (an award encompassing alt-country and americana). But for Hillman a categorization like this is kind of a misnomer: “We get placed in the alternative country category by default. Because what I hear from what I generally gather is alternative country, is a lot more country sounding than alternative. And I think we’re much more alternative sounding than country. I would say that it’s more kind of slow, sparse alternative with a little bit of western flavor.” Not to speak of the jazz appeal the whole thing has…
As we see Hillman is full aware of breaking categories and also some auditory habits. Now “Tercero” presents his skills in full bloom. Co-produced by Neil Halstead (Mojave 3) the album is an impressive piece of west coast grandeur with a touch of alternative twang. Besides the usual suspects (guitar, bass, drums) and Hillman’s clear, tender, and crooner-like voice, it’s the unsentimental but passionate use of pedal steel, cello and accordion that keeps everything in flow and the expectations high.
We find heartbroken passion (“What love was”) and thoughtful doubts (“How do you want me”), and while a Mariachi-trumpet sends a love letter to Hillman’s hometown (“Los Angeles”) a slight reminiscence of Chet Baker lingers in “Drastic”. And sometimes when you expect a refrain, you witness a second verse, and while expecting the bridge. you get the refrain. Hillman’s songs show up with a lot of surprises. In the end this has so much to do with country as Nora Jones has to do with jazz. It’s simply the most beautiful music for today. Each music has its time. Now it’s time for the Sid Hillman Quartet.
Miscellaneous: In June 2002, the SHQ won the L.A. Weekly People’s Choice Award for “Best Country Artist” (an award encompassing alt-country and americana) after the release on January 22, 2002 of their second LP, entitled “Volume Two,” on Innerstate Records (City Hall) in the U.S. and Evangeline Records (Universal) in Europe. “Dream Your Life Away” (third track on ‘Volume Two’), was featured in Sony Pictures’ “The Mothman Prophecies,” and “Our July” (ninth track) was featured on the T.V. show “Felicity.” Also in 2002, “Volume Two” spent two weeks on the CMJ top 200 Airplay Chart, and is still receiving widespread airplay across the U.S. and Canada.
Past Tours: In early 2005 Sid & Jack toured Europe opening for Eleni Mandell and later that year, Sid toured Europe solo, opening for Chris Cacavas. In June 2003, Sid opened for Lisa Germano on the west coast U.S. In April 2002, Sid opened for Neil Halstead on a four week U.S./Canadian tour to support the Quartet’s “Volume Two.” In addition, in 2001 the SHQ supported Mojave 3 (4AD) on a 4-week sold-out tour playing 22 shows in 19 cities, in support of their first LP, released in July 1999.