Sometimes, going down a rabbit hole on the internet can lead you to something special. In this case, it led me to the Hill Figs. What are Hill Figs, you ask? Well, as they tell it, a Hill Fig is a “person of sweet flesh hidden beneath a dark, unattractive surface,” as in “has a bit of a Hill Fig in ‘em…” or a hidden sweetness about them.
But there’s nothing hidden about the sweet sounds of these Hill Figs.
What I discovered in my rabbit hole was singer songwriter Tyler Hood performing “Lost Love & Home” while sitting in a boat on the Blue River, in Depauw, Indiana, snow-covered banks behind him, clumps of snow softly falling from trees around him as he strummed and sang a bittersweet tune.
That performance earned him the winner of the 2021 Gems in the Rough competition, a contest I’d never heard of until now but plan to pay close attention to now that I know they uncover gems like this.
One year after beating out 800 others for top songwriting honors, Hood and his band, the Hill Figs, are releasing their first album, Lost Love and Home, April 9.
The title song is the one Hood was singing in that video on the river.
Take a listen and discover eight original songs, all written by Hood—bittersweet tales with a sense of humor and a hint of hope, sung in his sincere, honest Kentuckiana twang.
They’ll make you nostalgic for a place you’ve never been. Every listen reveals another gem.
His songwriting has a tinge of world weariness to it, like he’s seen more than his share of disappointment in 20-something years. There’s an ache to his voice, a sense of longing, and an honesty, with emotions laid bare, but not overly sentimental. These are truly original lines that will stand the test of time. You’ll find yourself listening again and again. They are songs that you just can’t get sick of because they only sound better the more you listen to them.
“Better Way to Fly,” features some great picking and Tyler’s distinctive voice and wise-beyond his years songwriting about addiction.
In “The Fall,” Tyler’s voice just shines, his storytelling digs deep. It’s just a beautiful song, with mournful violin and songwriting as good as it gets.
“Mama” is a dark, thrumming tale of apology that builds up to a crescendo, with the twang of mandolin.
“The Weight of it All,” is a honky tonk love song with a hint of a waltz.
“Devil Calling” is a slow folky song, sung with warmth and love.
“Angel on the Line,” is an old-timey sounding love song true to the Americana sound.
“Alone Here with You,” is a funny, upbeat country-waltzing honky tonk rambler with some sweet guitar picking.
The album ends with “Love Lost & Home,” a beautiful bittersweet ode to youth and the Blue River.
Each song just grabs you by the heartstrings, both lyrically and musically.
Tyler’s songwriting is right up there with some of the best in the genre: Chris Knight, Tyler Childers, Sturgill Simpson, Hayes Carll, Todd Snider, Jason Isbell, James McMurtry, and yes, I said it—John Prine.
The album features award-winning steel guitar player Jy-Perry Banks, violinist Anna Blanton, who previously played with Colter Wall. David O’Neal, of Mama Said String Band, is also featured on strings on ‘Weight of it All.” All add incredible depth to this beautiful collection of songs.
The album is produced by Hill Figs’ guitarist Collie Crawford, and Glory Daze, and recorded and mixed in living rooms and eastern Kentucky hollers. It was mastered by Nashville’s Anti-Corp engineer Dan Emery.
The Hill Figs make music as pure and sweet and true as any you’ll ever hear. The song, “Lost Love & Home,” is now streaming everywhere. Order your copy of Lost Love and Home at hillfigs.com.
And if you happen to be in the Louisville area, head out to their album release party at the Whirling Tiger on April 9. I know I wish I could.