I’ve been waiting to listen to this album for months now and it’s absolutely incredible. Having watched Hugh at the Union Chapel in London last week, I really couldn’t wait to get my hands on the album. And what an album it is! I’m a big fan of the blues and I already know a number of tracks on the album and these versions are brilliant. A lot has been said about this album compared to ‘real’ blues musicians, some of it negative, but there’s nothing negative on this album. It’s authentic, fantastic and you need to have it in your collections!
- St James Infirmary
- You Don’t Know My Mind
- Six Cold Feet
- Buddy Bolden’s Blues
- Battle Of Jericho
- After You’ve Gone
- Swanee River
- The Whale Has Swallowed Me
- John Henry
- Police Dog Blues
- Winin’ Boy Blues
- They’re Red Hot
- Baby Please Make A Change
- Let Them Talk
The opening track ‘St James Infirmary’ is the longest track on the album but contains two parts to it. The first is a fantastic piano piece played by Hugh, and then the band comes in around the 2:40 mark. The bass really stands out as being very 1920’s American if that makes sense. Brilliant! ‘You Don’t Know My Mind’ is the next track, a track that most people know already as it’s the first single from the album. ‘Six Cold Feet’ contains brilliant slide guitar and you really get a feel for how good the mixing is on this album. All of the instruments compliment each other beautifully with a great vocal performance from Hugh over the top.
‘Buddy Bolden’s Blues’ was a b-side to the first single and it’s fantastic it also makes it onto the album. All of you House lovers will really love this one because it sounds like he came straight from the set to record the vocals! The next track is one of my favourite on the album. After hearing it live I was totally blown away, and the recorded version doesn’t disappoint. The track is called ‘Battle Of Jericho’ and it’s an old African-American spiritual composed by slaves in the early 19th Century.
‘After You’ve Gone’ features the first guest vocalist on the album, Mac Rebennack. It’s a really laid back track written in 1918 and a track that has previously been recorded by artists such as Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong and Judy Garland. ‘Swanee River’ features Hugh at his best on the piano with some fantastic boogie-woogie playing. It really gets you up and dancing! The next track, ‘The Whale Has Swallowed Me’, is another favourite of mine originally written by the great blues musician J.B. Lenoir. I absolutely love the original version and this one gave me goosebumps when I first heard it. You really have to give it to Hugh. It isn’t easy to cover so many great songs and pull it off, but he has, magnificently!
‘John Henry’ and ‘Baby Please Make A Change’ feature two more gust vocalists, Irma Thomas and Tom Jones. They aren’t my favourite tracks on the album as I much prefer the tracks with Hugh singing, but they’re still very very good. ‘Police Dog Blues’ is an old blues number written by Blind Blake and it’s a simple rendition compared to the other tracks on the album, as it only features an acoustic guitar and an upright bass along with the vocals. ‘Tipitina’ and ‘Let Them Talk’ are piano based songs that seriously showcase Hugh’s ability as a pianist. Brilliant stuff!
‘Winin’ Boy Blues’ is a tune you could really imagine listening to in 1920’s America, sitting in some kind of smoking lounge with a pipe. The atmosphere on the track is incredible and it’s fantastic Hugh and his band have managed to achieve this kind of sound. It’s extremely authentic which can be hard to achieve nowadays. ‘They’re Red Hot’ is a track I know extremely well. Originally written by Robert Johnson and recorded in San Antonio in July 1936, it was one of the only Johnson songs that didn’t feature a standard 12 bar blues format. This version is painfully short and you really wish it could go on and on, but it’s marvellous!
This is a brilliant album. As I write this, it’s already Number 2 in the UK album charts and it’s only been out one day. It’s a great blues album that features fantastic musical performances from all of the band and a great vocal performance from Hugh himself. And even though the album isn’t strictly ‘pure’ blues, I really hope it gets more people interested in the genre, especially in the UK. But please, if you don’t already have this album, go out and get it right now!