Craig Hughes. Hard Times Volume 1

Writing on the (assured) presumption that all those who frequent Blabber’n’Smokeland have a copy of Jim Dead’s tremendous Ten Fires to hand we direct you to the fiery guitar therein, much of it provided by local blues colossus, Craig Hughes. Much like his fellow blues traveller, Dave Arcari, (a guy who looks like he’s possessed by the devil while delivering his blues damnations), Hughes puts his all into a performance commanding the stage, growling for all he’s worth while turning out some awesome picking be it electric or acoustic. Fortunately he’s a dab hand at conjuring up this magic in the studio as well as he has demonstrated on the Jim Dead album, his recent forays as part of the uber heavy Dog Howl Moon or solo as on this, his latest EP.
His debut album, Pissed Off, Bitter and Willing to Share was considered by a Canadian publication to be the best UK blues album of 2009 while his shared platter with yet another local bluesman, Sleepy Eyes Nelson won plaudits galore. Now he unleashes Hard Times, Volume 1, a six song EP that runs the gamut from acoustic blues to rockabilly mayhem.
Promises, Promises sees Hughes running down the blues as he slides away on acoustic and growls his resolutions to give up drinking, fighting and lovin’. Straightforward and excellent and a fine opener. He Loved Her and Sent Her To Hell stomps along with drum assistance from Ally Tennick as Hughes delivers a cautionary tale that wouldn’t go amiss on a Nick Cave album. Hard Times Every Day is less pugnacious although as a diatribe against the recession it follows in the grand tradition of songs like Buddy, Can You Spare A Dime as Hughes captures a sense of futility and failure singing “It’s hard to keep your chin up when you’re face down in the dirt.” Tapes For My Walkman lightens the mood on a banjo driven send up of a guy sticking to obsolete technology (apart from the needle for his stereo, still a must folks). The slide guitar returns for Left To Crawl as Hughes displays his songwriting and playing skills to great effect as he whizzes around the fretboard with a fair degree of wizardry while his words capture a poignant memory of a relationship that foundered and as the woman goes on to have a family the protagonist draws into himself. This is a great song and it recalls the likes of Richard Thompson’s early solo work. For the finale Hughes puffs up his chest and goes into Cramps mode with Cave Full Of Woman Bones. Fuzz guitar fuzzes and drums stomp on this caveman rocker that good old Lux would have loved.
So, six songs, all crackers. Hughes acknowledges the modern world and as such he’s offered the disc for download on a pay what you will basis on his Bandcamp site. However if you care to have a real life artefact in your mitts then it’s yours for the measly sum of £4, the price of a pint almost. Whatever way you get it I’m sure you’ll dig it.

bandcamp page

The Primevals. Disinhibitor

Back in the eighties Glasgow pop had one of its occasional high points with chart attacks from honey voiced crooners and literate jangle rockers. Lurking beneath the surface however was a tribe of rock ‘n’ rollers drinking from the well of primal beat. James King, The Kissing Bandits and The Cuban Heels all danced around this totem but chief of all and the only survivors are The Primevals. The Primevals were cooler, greasier. They were wired to the mainframe, sucking from the teats of The Cramps, The Gun Club, The Saints and Mike Wilhelm’s biker rock with a healthy dose of Captain Beefheart and some free jazz from the likes of Sun Ra and Pharaoh Saunders included. A heady mix indeed and one which offered them the opportunity to release several albums on the famed new Rose records and gain cult status in France, always appreciative of leather clad rock’n’rollers.
Recording throughout the eighties they petered out in the next decade but since 2000 have had sporadic reunions and live gigs with a release in 2007, ‘There Is No Other Life…And This Is It” on their own label , Triple Wide. A fabulous compilation of their New Rose recordings entitled ‘On the Red Eye’ came out around 2005 and is well recommended for anyone interested in a Glasgow take on garage rock or indeed anyone with a working nervous system. Now, four years down the line since their last offering The Primevals have a new disc out, Disinhibitor, a title Bobby Gillespie must be kicking himself for missing out on, and a short tour of old French haunts coming up.
So, thirty years on can the then young acolytes of rebel rock still cut the mustard. The answer is undoubtedly yes. Never ones to simply barrel down a basic route The Primevals here deliver a huge slab of sound which is rooted in sixties raunch with a punk attitude and a knowing wink to outsider music. Older and wiser perhaps but certainly more grizzled they pack a punch that from the off hits the listener in the gut. Anyone who digs the MC5 will be totally hooked by the two and a half minute maelstrom of Defying Science that opens the album. From here on in it’s a roller coaster of a ride with the band delivering visceral tunes such as American Road Trip and Venus Uncovered, the latter channelling the Cramps’ pile driver rhythm with an almost unhinged edge to it. Guitarist Malcolm McDonald is all over the album with screaming slide and howling feedback, his best moment perhaps on The Shape That Life Bent Me Into which almost out guns The Gun Club. In addition he plays some wild freakout organ on Someone To Love. With a rock solid rhythm section in Paul Bridges and John Honeyman song after song here drills into the listener. Ringmaster and vocalist Michael Rooney towers over the songs, full throated and super cool especially on Superfreak V11, a twisted psychedelic storm of a song. With 18 songs crammed into an hour there is no let up here for the listener, when the band temporarily abandon their blitzkrieg rock ‘n’ roll for a more “mellow” approach they hit you with waves of alto sax from the church of Albert Ayler.
Sixties band The Creation described their sound thus “ our music is red with purple flashes.” The Primevals are a modern day version of this but they do it in high definition. Overall a triumph and a must for anyone who equates rock ‘n’ roll with leather trousers and a bad attitude.
Website with tour dates

American Road Trip