Arty Hill: Baltimore Honky-Tonker Hits Blanco's Tonight
Being a honky-tonker in Baltimore seems as unlikely as finding a communist cell in River Oaks, but Arty Hill is living proof that honky-tonk exists on the Eastern seaboard.
With five albums in his briefcase, the most recent 2011's Another Lost Highway, Hill has been making some inroads in Austin and Dallas the past couple of years, but Houston has been a hard nut for the moonlighting criminal attorney to crack.
And while many Texans may not have heard of Hill, Jason and the Scorchers have cut some of Hill's songs and he's managed to place his songs on other artists' albums and in films.
A stone cold two-step honky-tonk band, Hill and his Pearl Dusters drop into recently spruced-up Blanco's -- there's an all-new wooden dance floor waiting to be boot-scuffed -- this evening for the second time this year. We caught up with him via cell phone between court dates.
Rocks Off: Describe the honky-tonk scene in Baltimore.
Arty Hill: It's pretty small, nothing like Texas. The past ten years or so, we've really just sort of built a little scene there one gig at a time.
RO: What sorts of venues do you work?
AH: Bars, of course. But we also play barbecue joints, restaurants, really about any place that will have us. We're not very picky.
RO: So you just jumped into it one day?
AH: Actually, I'd been doing more solo, singer-songwriter type stuff for some years before I decided to try to put a honky-tonk band together. That was about ten years ago.
RO: So when you started, there wasn't any other honky-tonk music going on in the area?
AH: Not really.
RO: So how did you expect to make that work?
AH: Well, in the beginning I wasn't sure it was going to work. But I found a couple of little places that would let us play and we started to get a few friends and people who followed us. But it was a very slow build-up.
RO: What was a typical crowd like?
AH: In the first couple of years, if ten people showed up it was a decent night. Twenty was like a huge crowd.