by Adam McGrath
Chances are you’ve seen Brad Hinton on stage somewhere around the Philadelphia area, even if you didn’t know it was him at the time. Hinton has spent the better part of a decade performing in collaborative bands like Wissahickon Chicken Shack and Hezekiah Jones, with even more hired-gun credits for live shows with newcomers like Dylan Jane. But over the last few years, Hinton has been gradually experimenting with the spotlight, releasing two solo albums, Mourning Dove and Whippoorwill, that highlight the range of folk, country, and bluegrass that capture his imagination at different turns.
Hinton is the definition of a reluctant frontman. Naturally shy, he first contemplated going solo after the Chicken Shack disbanded.
“I wanted something I could do by myself, and didn’t need a lot of other people to do,” he explains. “But, I go back and forth on being comfortable performing solo. I really enjoy adding flavor to songs as part of a band more than I do bantering with the audience.”
This conflicting desire is why Hinton will always perform with other bands even while writing and recording his own material. Fluidity is the name of the game, as lineups vary night to night and projects overlap and evolve.
“The Brad Hinton Band is definitely not a set lineup,” Hinton says. “It’s more situational. I could see that backfiring in certain ways, because I think people like consistency, but I don’t necessarily like to deliver a consistent package each time. I think there’s a little surprise in what I do. That’s what keeps me interested. I don’t want to play my songs over and over again the same way.”
Growing up in the Poconos, Hinton was influenced by singer-songwriters like Simon & Garfunkel and James Taylor, but also loved the gospel music he heard at church. A trumpet player by training, Hinton picked up the guitar in high school and expanded his instrumentation even more after meeting bassist Phil D’Agostino while at Penn State. Now a resident of Bucks County, Hinton alternates between guitar, banjo, lap steel and a resonator guitar called a dobro.
His songwriting is based more on structure and melody than lyrical content, and the recordings tend to reflect whatever genre he is most interested in at the time. Whippoorwill was more bluesy in feel, but Hinton says the material on upcoming EP Chickadee is more straight-ahead with a Neil Young vibe.
You can hear some of these new songs on July 18th at Milkboy when Hinton will bring together a band of his favorite cohorts to lead a bill that features Dirty Dollhouse and Caroline Reese and the Drifting 5th. Hinton will also be performing at Bethlehem’s Musikfest on August 7th.
In the meantime, catch up with the previous material on Hinton’s Bandcamp page, and look out for a new Hezekiah Jones album that is nearing completion. Whether front and center or off to the side, Hinton will continue to be a major player in the Philadelphia music scene. His willingness to collaborate guarantees things will stay fresh for both him and the audience.