On the inside of the cd packaging for "Hear the Bang: The Life and Music of Denny Lile" is a photocopy of a 1972 newspaper article entitled "Maybe THIS time it's Denny Lile's turn," suggesting that the Louisville, Ky. musician may be poised for stardom. Though the title track was a local hit the album failed to deliver Lile's time in the spotlight, and as the accompanying DVD documents, his life began the downward spiral that led to his death from alcoholism in 1995.
Though the 16 tracks here (11 were released on that self-titled 1972 album) do not represent a previously undiscovered masterpiece, they do reveal a 21-year-old singer/songwriter of remarkable potential. Particularly impressive are ballads such as the title track and "Rag Muffin," which fit in nicely with the work of contemporaries such as Jackson Browne or Jim Croce. One of Lile's stronger vocals is on the moody "Will You Hate Me When I'm Gone."
Lile was also in tune with the country rock of the era. "Meet Me By the River" features Eagles' style harmonies, while "If I Had My Way It'd Rain" and "If You Stay On Solid Ground" recall some of Gram Parsons' uptempo rockers and highlight New Grass Revival founding member Curtis Burch on Dobro.
The story of Lile's life and the effort to resurrect his music is told in the documentary film included on the bonus DVD. Produced by nephew Jer Lile, it is an affectionate yet brutally honest film that covers Lile's ups and downs including his one brush with success when Waylon Jennings scored a top 10 hit in 1987 with Lile's song "Fallin' Out." Ultimately "Hear the Bang: The Music and Life of Denny Lile" is the heartbreaking story of a talented but tragically flawed artist who failed to live up to his early promise, but with this release, the quality work he did produce has been rescued from the vaults and given the exposure it deserves.