Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Jack Hudson down at the Dog... Tuesday May 16 2006... Let him roll...

Eclectic, I suppose – although I don't find it weird to switch from the Grand Guignol Boogie to acoustic folk/blues/country wahoo. I knew the name Jack Hudson but couldn't place his music – he came up in conversation over a drink or two the other week when Frank the Blessed and myself were having a session. Then I noticed his name on a bill for an acoustic night at one of my local boozers – the venerable Dog (The Greyhound), a spit from where I live. I told Frank and arranged to meet him there last Tuesday. Wasn't really in the mood – I went to one of these acoustic gigs the other week and it was dreadful – without any frisson of amusement (well, a bit – you take your kicks where you can get them) in the earnest droning of a gaggle of middle-aged men living some bizarre dream, playing Americana with little emotional or cultural connections to the music and so terminally unhip it would have been too cruel to identify them or the venue. But we had a beer downstairs and a brief word with Derek – one of those Zen-like coolster landlords who never seem fazed by the sporadic idiocies encountered in the licensed victuallers trade – a welcoming presence. And finally made the trek upstairs. On my last visit I had been somewhat out of it and vaguely remember the presence of the ugliest band I've ever witnessed – who were actually a fiery blues rock group and rather good. (The time before that I had inadvertantly stumbled into a Hard Rock disco -The Dog wears its colours proudly - and during a dance with the oldest friend of my daughter's mother who is a transplanted Londoner living up here in God's Little Acre managed to damage my ankle. Happy memories...).

A couple of impressive sets from Charles Hutchings and Jonathan Beckett (I think I got the names right!), a fresh, confident spot from a young female singer songwriter (Katie Skilling?)and a very good set from Big Al Whittle who inhabits a similar musical area (albeit more blues/ragtime) to the artist I want to talk about - who blew me away - Jack Hudson, a wiry, somewhat lugubrious looking man with large, strong hands who exudes an air of wry road cool but has the manners of a pro – to a smallish audience he played probably as well as he would to a packed house. Frank, who rates him strongly, was almost in tears – and by God, he hit the spot. This man is brilliant, a fluent guitar player who sings with a deep brown voice ( a little cracked round the edges by the years, perhaps, but that added to the emotional punch). Coming off an area defined by the likes of Guy Clark, Tom Rush et al – acoustic 'Americana' which overlaps the 'Bluesiana' territory, as Maria Muldaur calls it. A (sadly, brief) mix of songs that deal with loves and heartbreaks and the personal psychodramas of life, the politics of the intimate. Nouveau hobo troubadour laments that are self-reflexive in one sense (and risk solipsistic obscurity on this emotional level – majestically avoided here, it must be said by their outward resonance) where they deal with the life of a travelling musician(bluesmen) and the strains on relationships that arise – to be offset by the freedoms gained, however hard-won. The stories, places and observations on and along the journey. 'The life or the art,' to quote Yeats... My comments about that other gig above point this up - concerning those people trying to inhabit this area and failing because the existential darkness has not been travelled through and confronted honestly. Or as we used to say – 'they haven't paid their dues...' I suppose you have to earn the right to sing this kind of music – those who haven't will always be found out straight away – they do not ring true. Jack Hudson does.

He is an immaculate interpreter of others' songs – highlighted tonight especially by 'L.A. Freeway,' the old Guy Clark classic - and no mean writer himself - his own 'Driftwood and Nails' displayed skill and craftmanship and searing emotional integrity. It stepped up to match the covers , in my opinion. So why is he not more well known? It's been suggested that he's too country for folk, too folk for country? Maybe. But in the current climate of Anglo-American music with the modernising and interminglings and stylistic mash-ups going on, I would have thought that there are a good few miles left on this particular road and for this unique musician. I await the next time...

And just to mention that the sound in the club was superb – crystal clear and warm, so that you were able to hear the guitars and voices clearly without too much loss of timbre etc. Howard Coleman, who runs these gigs is to be congratulated in his efforts to showcase the music at reasonable volume without distortion and the usual trade-offs from acoustic guitar pickups. A lesson to be learned for anyone running this type of gig (me included, although we don't do so many acoustic sets anymore. Still...).

I've found a site that has a couple of Jack Hudson cds/downloads available – go here...

2 comments:

St Anthony said...

What a fine neologism - Bluesiana.
And I keep laughing about your description of the ugliest band you've ever seen.

Jack Hudson sounds worth checking out.

Rod... said...

He was a revelation - a friend of mine knew him way back and when we saw he was playing locally we had to go - the previous acoustic night I'd been to nearly put me off but it was a great evening - and I've spent so much time surrounded by noise terror recently that it helps to clean out the ears! Jack was a nice guy - we had a drink afterwards and I'll definitely check him out next time he's playing anywhere local. The ugly band were - three fat bald guys in Union Jack t shirts with faces like bulldogs on absinthe who I stumbled upon one transgressional night with my now ex girl-friend whom I took on a late tour of the local demi-monde - it was worth it for the look on her face - but they were rather good... again, it's easy to let prejudices get in the way...