Memphis has always been a musical crossroads, a city where blues, soul, country and rock & roll influences often weave a unique tapestry of roots music. The latest release from Eric Hughes and his band certainly highlights the Memphis traditions, deftly mixing styles to fashion a worthy tribute to his hometown. Hughes is the lead singer and plays harmonica, guitar, and percussion. The band includes Walter Hughes on guitar and vocals, Leo Goff on bass, and Brian Aylor on drums and percussion. Backing vocals are handled by Reba Russell and Susan Marshall.
The opener, “Freight Train Of Pain,” comes at you hard with a throbbing bass line underneath the guitar and harp doubling the melodic hook. The dark tone is amplified when Hughes warns, “If you don’t like blues, you better get off the track”. “Roll A Fatty For Your Daddy” is a high-energy shuffle with Chris Stephenson on piano filling out an arrangement. The pace slows on “Midtown Blues” as Hughes celebrates his man bun and thrift store shoes, accented by some gritty harp blowing.
“Meet Me In Memphis” finds Hughes at his soulful best, waxing nostalgic about the city he calls home. Marc Franklin on trumpet and Art Edmaiston join Stephenson, playing several keyboards, to create an appropriately lush soundscape. The gentle ballad, “Left My Heart At Your Place,” gets at the emotions at the start of a new love affair. Acoustic guitars generate a backwoods feel on “I Believe I’m Going Fishing,” with Hughes sharing his love of a day well-spent at the local spot. “The Day They Hanged The Kid” tells the tale of a Billy the Kid-type outlaw’s failed attempt to regain a normal life during the Reconstruction era. The grinding rhythms on “I’m Knocking On Your Door” add a dark undercurrent to Hughes musings about an unfaithful woman. “Here Comes The Boogie Man” is a dose of guitar-driven funk, complete with some hardy harp licks as Hughes delivers a worldly vocal.
It would have been nice if a couple more songs of similar quality could have been added to the program to extend the listening enjoyment. Through nine compelling original tunes, the band consistently fleshes out each song without succumbing to endless, repetitive instrumental solos or vocal gymnastics. While Hughes may not be well-known outside the confines of the River City, on the basis of this disc, he certainly deserves a wider degree of recognition.