JamBase Questionnaire: Hill Country Revue

Welcome back to JamBase’s baker’s dozen to the bright lights of the music world. Last time we heard from Charlie Hunter.

Southern music is a many-splendored thing. Its roots go so deep and long that it infuses every aspect of the culture, popular and otherwise. Encapsulating even a portion of that depth in a single album is a challenge, yet one the Hill Country Revue accomplishes handily on Zebra Ranch (released October 12 on Razor & Tie).

The group’s sophomore effort builds on the boffo, stripper-ready blues-rock of their debut, revealing a greater reach and wider range that taps into prime Dickey Betts style instrumentals (“Second Street”), 38 Special-esque pop savvy (“Idyll”) and expertly handled covers (Stones’ “Wild Horses’). The writing is shared around the very talented group in a really appealing way that shows off their varied interests, running hot ‘n’ smooth by turns, but all of it redolent of the South’s deep skill at soul, blues, country and pop forms. What’s striking is how well much of this could slot in on commercial radio if programmers had more guts. Nothing is loss in terms of the barroom energy of their debut, but the refinements are hooky as hell. Lead singer Daniel Robert Colburn shows off a cool, confident range, the production is bold and on-point, and there’s an intertwined quality to the instrumentation that sucks the listener in quickly cut after cut. In a nutshell, this is just well made, broadly appealing music with a below the Mason Dixon accent, played with flowing, invigorating skill. (Dennis Cook)

Even though Cody Dickinson (guitar, drums, washboard, vocals) is incredibly busy with Hill Country Revue and his other affiliations (North Mississippi Allstars, The Word, Cody Dickinson Project, 30db, NMA DUO LUCO), he took time to answer our inquiries.

HCR’s Chris Chew & Cody Dickinson by Josh Miller
1. Great music rarely happens without…
Hard work and dedication – practicing, writing, rehearsing, performing, recording. Overnight success is a myth.

2. The first album I bought was…
Thriller. As kids, my brother and I used to argue about who was cooler, Michael Jackson or Eddie Van Halen. We listened to 1984 constantly, which is an awesome record, no doubt. My point was that Eddie guested on “Beat It,” not the other way around. I win.

3. The last song or album to really flip my wig was…
“Pull The Plug” by Dethklok. Metalocalypse has changed my guitar playing forever. I practice scales with a metronome everyday now, just hoping to one-day shred as hard as Squizgar. Brutal. I think I have discovered the bridge between death metal and jam music, and it could be dangerous. I’m afraid the government is watching me now.

4. When I was a kid I wanted to grow up to be…
A musician – careful what you wish for. The truth is music has always just made sense to me. I have made a living out of my art, which is a blessing. The music business is challenging. The secret is to stay active. Every successful musician I know is constantly busy with new projects, small gigs, huge gigs, whatever. I have other interests, but they are nothing more than hobbies.

5. My favorite sort of gig is…
Usually in the most unexpected place and at the strangest time. I like to play on stage first thing after taking a nap. Sometimes I get in this dreamy zone that seems to tap into my subconscious. I think it is easier to access while I am still half asleep. There is nothing like being fresh and well rested.

6. One thing I wish people knew about me is…
I love reading autobiographies. Biographies are lame – why read about someone, but not in their own words? It’s like smoking swag – life is too short.

7. I love the sound of…
My girlfriend’s laugh. It is intoxicating and contagious.

8. One day I hope to make an album as fantastic as…
Electric Ladyland. I think I came damn close with Hill Country Revue’s new record Zebra Ranch. I feel like a gangsta rapper right now – shameless self promotion.

9. The best meal I ever had on tour was at…
In Italy. Any meal in Italy is the best one.

10. I always find the coolest audiences in…
College towns. I love a good festival, but overall the kids are where it’s at.

11. The worst habit I’ve picked up being on the road all the time is…
Being wasted all the time. I regret every gig I ever played drunk and/or hungover. I wish I could take them back and refund every fan a buck off the ticket. I quit drinking over six months ago and I have never felt better. I wake up early and have energy in the morning. I even run a mile or two sometimes. It’s amazing. I forgot that isn’t normal to feel like crap everyday and cringe at sunlight.

12. The Beatles or the Stones? Por qué?
The Stones – hands down. I watched the new Exile documentary recently. So good…Por que? What’d you call me?

13. The craziest thing I ever saw was…
Lightning striking a telephone pole, right in front of Kirk Smithhart and me, driving from the airport recently. I later broke a mirror on Friday the 13th. What’s next?

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