The Australian music industry should be very ashamed of the tale of Dave Hole. Before being signed by US-based Alligator Records in 1992, he spent some twenty years making a living playing Perth pubs. With some concerts away from home, and the release of his first album, he drew rave reviews that compared him favourably with other famous guitar heroes, Jimi Hendrix included.
"Working Overtime" is his third album. Having already established himself as a ferocious and brilliant guitarist, this album sees Hole indulging his passion for the blues with a more mature and generally more restrained recording.
Hole plays slide guitar, using the unusual technique of draping his slide finger over the neck. This album features some standard blues stompers (kept kicking by ripping guitar work), but it also shows some expansion in the craft that we've seen on his previous albums. At times he is happy to pluck wistfully like B.B. King ("Crazy Kind of Woman") whilst at other times he picks up an acoustic and sings blues in a style reminiscent of Robert Johnson ("Mean Ole Airplane", "I Can't Be Satisfied").
Compared with the spectacular "Short Fuse Blues", Dave Hole shows more depth in his songwriting here, with much sturdier riffs and rhythms, and more variety in his material. When he covers a song (which he only does twice here), he makes the effort to bring something new to it. The classic "Key to the Highway" features a solo that fades to the most basic of slide guitar work (and little else) before exploding again with a joyous shout.
However, despite his virtuosity, this is not quite the great blues that I'm sure he's capable of. Sometimes he lets the solo go too long, which would be fine if he had good reason to. Instead you feel as if he just wants to impress you twice as much. On the self-penned "Twenty Years" he sings a passionate vocal but instead of carrying the morose feel through the guitar solo, he lets it drift towards his usual wild fretboard blitz.
Whereas the talented Tommy Emmanuel records technically impressive but musically predictable albums, Hole is a free spirit who is unafraid of letting himself go to where the music takes him. While sometimes you wish he'd taken a different path, you can't help being exhilarated by where it did take him.
© David Gilliver 1994
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