15 songs – 57 minutes
Seven times Blues Music Award nominee Eugene Hideaway Bridges needs no introduction to most Blues Blast readers. His deep blues, heavily laced with soul, funk, gospel and rock, is always played with infectious warmth and no little virtuosity. His new album, Hold On A Little Bit Longer, however, may be his best yet.
Featuring 15 songs, 13 of which were written by Bridges, and clocking in at just under an hour, Hold On A Little Bit Longer has a confidence and joie de vivre that is representative of a musician and a band that know they are at the top of their game and thoroughly enjoying it. There are no wasted moments, no fillers and no descents into self-indulgence.
Between the opening classic soul sound of “One More Time” to the closing smooth rock of “Thirst For Air”, Bridges tears into the rollicking west coast swing instrumental of “Yesteryear Today Tomorrow” (which highlights Bridges’ top notch guitar playing as well as some marvelous horn work from John Mills); the up-beat, country-tinged title track (featuring the guest slide guitar of British blues legend, Mickey Moody, perhaps best known for his stint in Whitesnake before they went down the big hair-slick production-heavy rock-MTV route); and the more traditional blues shuffle of “V8 Ford” (with the classic blues couplet “Baby, come on and ride with me, baby hop on board. It’s not a brand new shiny Cadillac, it’s just an old V8 Ford”). There is the funk of “Special Lady” and the R’n’B-pop of “End Of Time”. But, despite Bridges’ willingness to merrily trample over any number of musical genres, he treats each style with love and respect and there is a consistency and continuity throughout the album that produces a thrillingly unified end result.
Highlights abound across the release. “Change Your Name” is a powerful, slower BB King-esque number, while “Love You In Every Way” is the type of upbeat shuffle to which it is impossible not to tap one’s foot. We’re even treated to an eye-popping “Along The Navajo Trail”, the old Roy Rogers cowboy song, which is re-interpreted as an uptown swing number.
Perhaps the emotional touchstone of the album, however, is the gospel of “Lost And Lookin’”, on which Bridges is backed by a very simple drum and bass pattern. The sparse accompaniment helps to emphasizes the power of his molten honey voice. Hold On is dedicated to Bridges’ recently-passed father, Othineil Bridges, who was both a preacher and a bluesman who performed as a blues guitarist under the name “Hideaway Slim”, and “Lost And Lookin’” is a beautiful reminder of the huge overlap between blues and gospel.
Lyrically, Bridges addresses the traditional blues themes in his songs, but often with an unusual approach. In “Definition Of Me”, the chorus defiantly declares that “I won’t let material things be the definition of me”, whereas in “Take Me Back To Perth”, however, the singer demands to be returned to city in Western Australia where he has been treated so warmly that he now considers it a second home.
Bridges is backed by a crack band, featuring Clayton Doley on Hammond B3 Organ and piano, Otto Williams on bass, drummer Bobby Baranowski and a horn section of John Mills on sax, Kevin Flatt on trumpet and Jon Blondell on trombone. But Bridges himself is clearly the star of the show. His voice is warm, supple and capable of expressing deep emotion and his BB King-influenced guitar playing is powerful, melodic and played with taut restraint.
Hold On A Little Bit Longer is an absolute belter of a release. It is an album that both bears detailed scrutiny as well as being the perfect soundtrack to a party. One of the best albums of the year.