Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Hughie Mac releases "Let’s Get Away” Single


It takes a very specific kind of singer to make a cover song feel like an original, and time and time again, the talented Hughie Mac proves more than adept at doing just that. In his brand new single “Let’s Get Away,” he dispenses a charismatic vocal from behind a tenderly-produced microphone that serves as our bridge from 2019 into the gilded age of midcentury bop. Here, and really with the entirety of what all who give Hughie Mac Sings Some Great Songs, Pt. 3 a spin this spring will discover in its enormous tracklist, Mac crushes us with his emotive singing style and finds a way to spellbind us with little more than his elegant voice and a simplistic backing band inside of nearly three minutes of play.

The instrumentation in this single is very brooding and emotional from the get-go; in more ways than one, Mac is holding all of the pieces in the jazzy backdrop together with his slick vocal, and making it so that the lyrics are the central flashpoint of all the action going on in the track. He’s front and center in the mix, but his singing doesn’t drown out the colorful piano melody that is framing his words and providing some fluidity to the somewhat rigid percussion. “Let’s Get Away” has a streamlined, radio-ready production value, but believe me – it’s hardly the artificially-faceted pop that you’ll commonly find lurking around the commercial side of your FM dial.

This track really captures the energy of Hughie Mac Sings Some Great Songs, Pt. 3 profoundly. Mac is never afraid to take on the challenges that come with covering some of them most important songs ever written in the history of pop music, and with “Let’s Get Away,” we get to experience the full scope of his vocal palate without the source material’s historical value clouding our analysis of the song. I’ve been a lifelong Sinatra fan, but I don’t necessarily think about him when I listen to this single. I’m taken aback by the lyricism and drawn into Mac’s web of melodic grooves without ever thinking about the story behind the song that’s being played for me in real-time. I’m not even close to kidding when I say that this is one of the most refined skills that any recording artist could ever hope to possess.

Say what you will about contemporary pop music, but as far as I’m concerned, Hughie Mac is doing more than a good job of keeping things interesting from the underground and beyond with songs like “Let’s Get Away.” We’re living in one of the most incredibly diverse times for music and the people who make it, and though there’s no shortage of smart young songwriters making a big impact in 2019, it’s guys like Mac who embody the spirit of pop better than anyone else on the planet, transcending age, race, gender and culture. He’s undyingly committed to his craft, and as a result of his devotion, we’re treated to some of the strongest musicality we’re heard since the original version of this song first saw release so long ago.

Joshua Beach

Monday, March 11, 2019

Sprout EP, Luxury Single by Stephanie Rose

You hear some singers for the first time and know, beyond doubt, they are born for song. These are the sort of singers who wear music like a loose garment, as natural as breathing itself, and treat every word with the same gravity no matter the composer. Stephanie Rose has long since proven she is that caliber of singer, but her new EP release Spout, the second in her young career, catapults her into rarified air. The EP’s six songs shows her mettle tackling various types of modern country, but also a willingness to overturn the expectations of newcomers and reminding them that country music is an elastic, rather than static, thing. She has a keen-eyed acumen for looking past the surface of her subjects and a skill for storytelling we hear from few performers of her ilk. This is the sound of a gifted artist willing to take chances, but still more than capable of entertaining the masses.

Stephanie Rose is in full control of the first song, “Sprout”, from the moment her voice rises out of the mix. She sounds energized by both the song’s sentiments and musical performance surrounding her, but demonstrates the loose yet well placed consideration for never overstating herself. Everything she does fits the song. This is further away, nominally, from a typical country style than the EP’s later songs, but the organ and horns added into the song only make it more enjoyable rather than sounding like needless and arbitrary touches. Horns aren’t unheard of in country music, but you nevertheless should admire the daring in attempting to reintroduce them to modern audiences.

“Rusted Love” has songwriting showing how Rose can write about well worn topics with her own voice and she has an eye for telling imagery capable of opening a song’s meaning for listeners. The best songs, invariably, allow listeners to form their own personal associations, however, and though much of Sprout is written from a presumably autobiographical slant, Rose is never so nakedly specific about her life that it breaks the songwriting spell. “Rusted Love” is an excellent example of a song that might resonate in different ways with very different people. The drumming is a big reason for the song’s dramatic push, but it has strong dynamics that draw you in.

The song “Luxury” is quite unlike the two preceding numbers. There’s no striding rock beat or horns – instead, there’s a level of intimacy present here Rose never aspires to in the first two numbers. She takes us into the life of a family living on the financial margins and preserving through it thanks to their love for one another – there’s no easy answers offered up in this song and Rose’s voice confronts the its details and subject matter with a wide ranging emotional vocal.

“Same Old Same Old” is a lot more light hearted, by far, and has a balance between sensitivity and wry detachment that I like, but it wouldn’t be nearly as successful without such an on point arrangement. The bare bones tempo, harmonica and guitar, and instantly memorable chorus are greater than the sum of their individual parts. Sprout shows how to write and recording a meaningful EP release while making it sound easy. Anyone who knows music and songwriting well understands, of course, these six songs are the result of much effort, experience, years of honing a craft, making the necessary connections with sympathetic collaborators, but Stephanie Rose makes it all come across like these songs were there all along and only waiting for her to arrive and give them voice. It’s the highest compliment I can give and worth every syllable.

Joshua Beach