Hill Country Revue, Sons of Bill

The Windjammer

Mon. June 1

There wasn’t a packed house at the Windjammer on the Isle of Palms, but Monday’s double bill of the Hill Country Revue (at least four out of the five of them) and Sons of Bill raised enough hell to whip the small crowd into a minor frenzy. Both bands were distinctly Southern in musical style and manner, but each rocked in their own way.

Sons of Bill looked sort of like a college campus version of Tom Petty’s first Heartbreakers lineup: four-piece kit, organs, and keys at stage right, a lead singer flanked by a Fender Telecaster a Fender P-bass. They sounded similar, too. “Hey, we’re Sons of Bill from Charlottesville,” announced tall-standing frontman and acoustic guitar strummer James Wilson at the top of the opening set, (hey, it rhymed!).

It was a relief to catch a guitar-driven rock band from mid-Virginia completely devoid of any Dave Matthews Band influence. The Sons worked from a more straightforward, four-chord, twangy two-part harmony bag of tricks, many off their brand-new album One Town Away. At their most country, their ballads became almost anthemic and majestic (especially crowd favorite “Charleston,” on which they carry on about drinkin’ on the Battery). At their heaviest, lead guitarist Sam Wilson’s tasteful solos took flight into Angus Young, Pete Townshend, and Mike Campbell territory.

Hill Country Revue, boosted as the new version of the North Mississippi Allstars, were missing drummer-turned-guitarist Cody Dickinson, who was back home tending to a family matter. While bassist Chris Chew was the only official Allstar on stage, the quartet’s aggressive funk style won immediate approval from the crowd.

Lead singer and harmonica player Daniel Coburn (of Dixie Hustler) seemed to be doing an impersonation of Canned Heat’s Bob “The Bear” Hite, blowing some cool solos and trading singing duties with Chew (the bassist sang lead on Solomon Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody,” which had more than a few tipsy fellas dancing like Jake and Elwood by the bar). However, lead guitarist Kirk Smithhart’s kick-ass distorted tone and blues licks and the explosively accenting snare and bass drum fills from drummer Ed “Hot” Cleveland stood out as the strongest highlights of the set.

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