On "Conversations With The Blues," Scottish singer/songwriter Al Hughes
picks up where he left off with his acclaimed self-titled CD. Hughes
picks, strums and blows (harp) his way through a set of self-penned numbers
that highlight his talents as a natural blues songwriter. Some of the
influences may be easy to spot, but Hughes always adds an original musical
and/or lyrical twist that makes each song his own.
The opening track ("All This Time") is a sparse, hauntingly beautiful piece
that would make perfect mood music for a western. You could just imagine
"All This Time" being played as the camera panned through an empty town in
the wild west. Hughes follows it up with a more jazzy piece (a la Lonnie
Johnson), "Talking To The Blues," before moving into more instantly
recognizable blues territory on "I Feel Like Robert Johnson (Part 2)." The
song sounds like a descendant of "Key To The Highway," with Hughes leaning
more towards Piedmont rather than Delta blues, something which he pursues
further on the ensuing "Big Girl's Blues." He later returns to the
Piedmont for an excellent spot of fingerpicking on the instrumental "Low
Hughes is a very versatile performer, able to sing and play in a variety of
styles, encompassing blues, soul and jazz. It also makes no difference
whether he plays solo or in accompanied (as on four of the tracks here): he
is equally at home in both settings. He also has a sharp eye for detail,
revealed by his lyrics (check out "TV Mama" and "Silicone City Blues" for
observations on modern life) and song titles ("Low Fat Rag").
"Conversations With The Blues" confirms Al Hughes place as a fine blues
musician and songwriter, albeit one deserving of wider coverage. Hughes
continues to do what he does best, writing good songs, and putting heart
and soul into singing and playing them. On his latest CD there is evidence
of a few more jazz influences ("Talking To The Blues," "Where White Men
Sing The Blues," and "Silicone City Blues") than on his previous
self-titled album, but he never strays that far from the blues. All in
all, "Conversations With The Blues" is another fine album from Al Hughes
that is worth tracking down. You should be able to order it via the Lights
Out By Nine web site (www.lightsoutbynine.co.uk).
This review is copyright © 2001 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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