Hughie Mac’s ongoing series chronicling the history of 20th century American songwriting, Sings Some Great Songs, has hit its fourth volume with no signs of slowing down. Mac doesn’t limit his selections but, it must be said, has a definite preference for mid-20th century pop, pre-rock and roll, such as theatrical show tunes and Sinatra, among others. Any collection where Ol’ Blue Eyes can co-exist alongside Jimmy Buffett is unusual fare and Hughie Mac’ Hughie Mac Sings Some Great Songs, Vol. 4 is familiar, yet indelible.
Much of this is attributable to Mac’s voice. He doesn’t have the typical pyrotechnic marvel, a voice capable of blowing listeners out of their seats with its power, but it grabs your attention. It’s apparent from the first. His interpretation of “Almost Like Being in Love” doesn’t grab you by your figurative lapels and dominate the space but, instead, Mac’s voice approximates that giddy sensation invoked by the song with a smile and a wink. The perfectly placed musical backing supports him well.
He excels just as much with more recent material. His version of “Changes in Latitudes” never allows itself to get too exuberant, but nonetheless modulates the song’s energy with a steady hand and satisfies those familiar and new to the track. “Two Pina Coladas” receives similar treatment. Mac captures the song’s boozy gregariousness without ever lapsing into parody and times his performance well against the arrangement. It finds its mark from its first note through the last.
The next three tracks are among the most well-known selections from the mid-20th century American songbook. “My Way”, the seminal Sinatra tune that likely closed every show for the better part of three decades, gets respectful but lively treatment from Mac. He isn’t content trying to ape the original, who could, but hews close enough to the classic version in both vocal and musical spirit that any Sinatra fan will approve. His phrasing is spot on throughout.
Another aspect of Mac’s performance many will enjoy is his steadfast refusal to ham the material up. You hear this, particularly during songs such as “Come Fly with Me” which naturally lends itself to the singer making a great fuss over its lyrics, but Mac doesn’t go for that. He sings the song with zest and confidence, but he lets these great songs stand on their own. It creates an all the more pleasing contrast when set against this track’s horns.
We continue with the theme of flight. The classic “Fly Me to the Moon” gets played straight as well, incorporating excellent percussion, woodwind, and upright bass contributions. Mac’s level of comfort with this material is clear. It’s part of what makes hearing the Sings Some Great Songs series so enjoyable and, really, there’s no need for it to end here. Mac has a tight grip on picking the right material for his voice and he’s far from exhausted the possibilities of this concept. His latest entry, Hughie Mac Sings Some Great Songs, Vol. 4, is his best yet.