A Different Side of Peak’s Jeremy Hilliard with “Long Lives”

The pandemic was hard.

Things got really scary really fast for many of us. Most people were forced to stay home. I was not one of those people as my job is pretty paper-heavy, so I was still going to work a lot. My husband was still going to work every day, as he was a retail worker in construction. But while our work worlds spun madly on, the good stuff in our world was slowing. We all had to slow our roll and pull all our limbs back in the car. As we all know, clubs shuttered. Festivals and shows were cancelled. The music got real quiet.

Then one day, people started having shows in their homes and letting us all in. It started slow and then everyone was doing it. I don’t know what other people thought about this phenomenon, but I loved it. I loved the rawness of the material and the nosey person in me loved getting to look in people’s homes and at their artwork and furniture. I’m that person who absolutely WILL look in your window at night if your blinds are open as I drive by. Not because I’m pervy or anything, I really just want to see what colors you paint your walls and stuff. So this, for people like me, was magical. Music and interior design!

Anyway, one of my favorite living room peeks was New York’s Peak’s (see what I did there?) guitarist, front man, and mastermind Jeremy Hilliard. He would take requests, create lists, show us tiny cups, and sometimes his lovely wife or cat. It was an acoustic hour of all sorts of material and it always felt like just hanging with a friend for some tunes. Even though he never took my Simon and Garfunkel suggestions, I loved and looked forward to those living room shows. They were super fun and appealed to my not-so inner folkie. Fast forward to now, and Jeremy has taken some of the songs he’s had stored in the freezer for a few years, mixed them with some songs he’s been working on recently, and compiled a bunch of home demos he calls Long Lives. It’s a wonderfully rough and real batch of songs that play with folk, Americana, true blue country (you know, the good kind) and just pure emotional rock and roll, stripped down and laid bare.

Long Lives, according to Jeremy, is “10 demos of mine that seem to fit together.” He’s absolutely right. The songs all have a wonderfully rootsy Americana feel. It’s a great collection that gives you a sense of journey. You feel like you are along for the ride through states and cities across our country, seeing the landscapes and meeting the people. Jeremy’s guitar playing is absolutely wonderful in general, but this collection really highlights how broad his talents are.  While there are some tasty solos throughout, his playing simply lays a really comfortable and smooth set of tracks for every story he is telling. My favorite track is the collection opener, Shot in the Dark. It reminds me a bit of Arlo Guthrie in how the song is strung together and has a wonderful singalong quality with the really great backups. I could see this song as the credits roll after a good romance film. I also love Morning in Brooklyn. “Late night crackheads, early morning hipster joggers”…it paints a picture. The best line though is “BQE sunrise…every exit tells a story”. Blue Parkway is also a really gorgeous song with a bit of a soaring folkie feel. You can get the sensation of being within this tune, along for the ride.  The title track has a wonderful “froggie went a courtin” kind of feel, but with Jeremy’s amazing guitar work and much better lyrics, plus a really hopeful vibe. It’s a song I actually plan to teach my daughter to sing because it has such a wonderful message.

Jeremy recorded these tunes pretty bare bones, using Logic Pro x, one 58 mic, and two guitars. Also in the credits on vocal harmonies is his lovely wife, Beth. It’s a refreshingly raw recording. Everyone these days is very into perfectly polished records. Overproduction is a thing and in my opinion, it’s REALLY prevalent. It takes away so much of the personality of a song sometimes to make something sound so studio perfect, and I love the fact that this collection is nothing like that. So much of the folk music I love is pretty much under produced and that lends itself wonderfully to the overall feel of the songs. I would put this collection right there with some of the best of those records, in that you feel connected to the artist in the recording. Like you could be sitting right there with them, the way we used to before the pandemic closed down our intimate venues. I really, really enjoyed Long Lives and I would be happy to see it become a one man show for a few dates or even a full on release – as long as it stays rough and true. It was a genuine privilege to get to dig into this material.

But as always, don’t take my word for it. Head on over to Soundcloud and give the collection a listen for yourself, and let’s discuss!

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