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Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009

Purgatory Hill

Purgatory Hill (DarkPresents)

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­­Veteran Wisconsin songwriter and singer Pat MacDonald recorded his latest album under the name Purgatory Hill. The CD is nothing less than a shocking reinvention of blues and rock music.

Aside from numbers by PJ Harvey and Iggy Pop, a traditional entry and one co-written by others with MacDonald, the remaining nine songs are all original in every way conceivable-and so is the primary instrument utilized. The Lowebow Purgatory Hill Harp consists of a cigar box with two wooden rods that serve as the neck upon which ride three guitar strings and one bass string. It's an amplified, four-string guitar that, along with neck-rack harmonica and electrified foot stomp, result in a massive sound not unlike what one would hear in a log cabin on Mars. He is backed by Milwaukee's melaniejane on vocals and numerous instruments, including a Lowebow Shake Stick.

The song "Reset Me Lord" says, "This puzzle's got too many pieces/That there's no time to rearrange," and once the album begins there is no time for anything but what's arranged via its nine self-penned songs. They are sonic blues re-established as a fabric upon which rock music is re-designed. "Go on and take my addiction," "Reset Me Lord" continues, and a listener has no other choice. The album propels one through a world that is hypnotic yet, from pure performance thrust, totally alert. It's an entirely different place than the world of blues cover acts and emotionally slobbering singer-songwriters.

"All you critics, try to relax" goes a line in "Count To Ten." We can't. It's not possible. There's too much excitement out on Purgatory Hill.