Founded at the University of New Hampshire in Durham in 1993, Percy Hill originally consisted of guitarists Tom Powley and Joe Farrell, keyboardist Nate Wilson, drummer Tim Leavy, percussionist Zack Wilson and bassist Jeremy Hill. Powley and Farrell tackled most of the lead vocals. The young group quickly recorded Setting The Boat Adrift (1993) and began gigging steadily in New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts. Leavy left the band and was soon replaced by Dylan Halacy. In 1996, not long after the release of Straight On ‘Til Morning (1995), Hill left the group to become a father and was replaced for one year by Moon Boot Lover bassist Jon Hawes whose hyperactive, popping funk style was an ample complement to Halacy’s robust drumming. This lineup is featured on the live Double Feature (1997), more than half of which was recorded at a performance at Boston’s celebrated Paradise Rock Club on December 27, 1996. In 1997, Hawes was succeeded by road manager Andy Lanoie. In the autumn of 1997, after a show at New York’s much missed Wetlands which included a collaboration with bass virtuoso Victor Wooten, frontman Powley left and the group continued through the end of the year as a quintet.
The band underwent a major lineup change in 1998 when Halacy, Lanoie and Zack Wilson followed Powley. Drummer and lead vocalist/songwriter Aaron Katz and bassist John Leccese were added. Only Nate Wilson and Farrell remained from the original band. The reconstituted group had a new sound that was looser, more wholly groove-oriented and built on Katz’s impeccable sense of rhythm and songwriting skills. The quartet toured heavily across the U.S. for over five years, released the critically acclaimed and most successful Percy Hill album ever, Color In Bloom, in 1998. Color in Bloom received the 2000 Jammy award for studio album of the year. It contains songs including “Ammonium Maze” and the most downloaded Percy Hill song of all time “Chrissy Reid”.
In 2002, the group played a weekend’s worth of well-received and well-attended shows in Massachusetts and New Hampshire with a 13-piece ensemble complete featuring an expanded troop of percussionists, a horn section, two backup vocalists and frequent collaborator Adam Terrel, whose gritty guitar leads counterbalanced Farrell’s more reserved, jazz-inflected solos. These performances created a momentum that ultimately led to the recording and release of 2003’s Live.
Katz and Farrell played a handful of small gigs with a changing cast of supporting players, including Pat Dole on bass and Craig Struble on harmonica, as the Percy Hill Trio in 2005 and 2006.
Percy Hill has been compared favorably to Steely Dan for several reasons: they often claimed they were most comfortable in the studio, a rarity for today’s jam bands, and their music was complex and focused. Other comparisons have been drawn to Paul Simon and Sting.
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