In the course of my day, I hear every style of music you could imagine. Singer-songwriters to death metal and everything in between. Some days, the amount of narcissism is staggering. I suppose it’s the curse of the music industry being inundated by the young. Today, after going through a deluge of offerings from dramatic prima donnas, I was lucky enough to stumble on the comforting, humble tunes of Tod Hughes. There was a time when I would never give a second listen to bluegrass but ever since bands like Old Crow Medicine Show and The Devil Makes Three have crossed over to the alternative crowd, I’ve started to take note. Hughes latest album, Time Slow Down is broader than a pure bluegrass record. It plays out more like a post ’60s Dylan album, straddling the line between rock and roots.
The opener and title track ‘Time Slow Down’ caught me right away and I found myself listening on repeat as it seemed to cleanse my soul. Shuffling acoustic guitars and banjo welcome you in immediately. Verses reflect calmly on things come and gone while the chorus asks time to “slow down and wait for me”. Beautiful two-part harmonies with an angel-voiced woman make this song irresistible.
The record continues jumping back and forth between swinging urban rock numbers in the style of Dire Straits and homespun prairie tunes. ‘One of a Kind’ and ‘Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place’ tell of adventures in the city while a song like ‘Nothing too Obscure’ feels like a good ol’ sing along out on the porch at the ranch. The song looks down the road for answers but doesn’t get lost in existentialism trying to find them.
The aforementioned ‘Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place’ sports the slick muted trumpet you very well might find meekly murmuring out of tiny speakers at one of these joints. Cute lady vocals pop in and out to further back up the parody. Hughes would rather have “gas station coffee you have to chew”.
Tod Hughes style could be divisive in the same way that Bob Dylan’s vocals either repulse or enchant. They aren’t always evenly timed and the melodies like to intentionally drift to off-key notes but fans of Dylan or Neil Young will love its authenticity. Hughes has a pair of dates coming up at the Calgary Stampede where I’m sure he’ll be warmly received. Sometimes it’s good to take a break from the bright lights of the big city and go sit out under the big sky country and let your mind open up in the wind.