Tim Mullins, WYPL
Tim Mullins, WYPL 89.3FM
Cascade Blues Association
by: Cascade Blues Association
Chances are if you’ve ever spent any time on Beale Street looking for the blues, you’ve come across the Eric Hughes Band. Long time mainstays on Beale, you can usually find them in one of several venues throughout the week. His popularity amongst the performers has earned him perennial nominations as the Beale Street Entertainer of the Year. A master on guitar, harmonica and vocals, he is also a crafty wordsmith when it comes to songwriting.
Drink Up! is the fourth release from the Eric Hughes Band. It features a strong line-up of musicians alongside Eric: Leo Goff on bass, Walter Hughes on guitar and mandolin, Doug McMinn throwing down drums, percussion and congas, Chris Stephenson on keys, and Memphis legend Robert Nighthawk Tooms also on keys. The production staff is also of high note, with Brad Webb as engineer, co-producer and mixer, and Dawn Hopkins, perhaps the finest editor and mixing professional in the entire MidSouth if not the entire country.
What is truly enjoyable about Eric Hughes’ music is his ability to come at you from a multitude of directions. He opens up with the title track, “Drink Up!” done in a jumping rockabilly feel. Later on he takes a little funk flavor with tracks like “Frostina” and “Repo Man.” “That’s My Baby’s Mama,” with its pop song quality carries a memorable catch-phrase behind a Stax-like guitar groove that if you do not watch out, you’ll be singing in your head endlessly. The cover of “Going To Brownsville” opens with a very traditional Delta feel, played on a steel-bodied acoustic guitar, with the pace picking up midway through as the band joins in. And “The Ballad Of Weevil Point Willie” is a nice display of Hughes’ songwriting ability to pass on a story; this time with a little down-home setting enhanced by the mandolin work of Walter Hughes.
Eric Hughes runs fully in front of his band each and every time out. His harp work on “Blues Magician” captures the essence of his bluesy lyrics precisely, doubly enriched by tight guitar licks. And what songwriting: “I’m a blues man, I’m only happy when I’m down.” On “Frostina” he uses great imagery to describe the coldness of this woman: “combs her hair with an icicle,” “sleeps in a Fridgadaire” and “just too chilly to hold.” Now that’s cold! And visual. He tells us about the life of a bluesman , staying out all night, cigarettes and booze, now you’ve “Tested Positive For The Blues.” His doctor tells him he needs to get a little sunlight, but the only cure that there really is is to find a little loving. This song is Eric Hughes at his unique best!
Drink Up! is a terrific recording, falling quite rightfully in the Memphis mode. It is a blues album, but it has been crisscrossed by other forms of music, too. Much like Beale Street and the city itself. Eric Hughes has struck gold in his songwriting this time out and the musicianship of the band and himself are definitely reaching new heights as well. If you’re unfamiliar with Eric Hughes or the modern Memphis blues sound, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this one.
Total Time: 42:48
Drink Up! / that’s My Baby’s Mama / Blues Magician / Frostina / Tested Positive For The Blues / Mama Don’t Allow / Repo Man / Raining On Beale / Going To Brownsville / The Ballad Of Weevil Point Willie / My Baby Got A Black Cat
B.B. King's Bluesville, XM Radio
Pat St. John, "BB King's Bluesville"
Aujuord'hui Le Blues, Canada
Aujourd'hui le Blues, Canada
"Confessin' the Blues" Radio Syndicate
Silver Michaels, wyur-dig
Silver Michaels, "Wy-ur-dig" Online Magazine
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro, mary4music.com
Beale Street, Memphis, TN. If you've happened to be there during the International Blues Challenge or the Blues Music Awards, you know what it's all about. If you haven't, you'll just have to take my word for it when I say that as a blues fan, there's no place like it. The "Boss of Beale Street" himself, Eric Hughes, surely agrees. But for him there's no place like it all year long. In addition to being one of Memphis' busiest musicians, he's one of the most sought after by the Beale Street juke joints. A look at his schedule will testify to that.
With "Drink Up" being his fourth release, Eric Hughes keeps himself quite busy in the studio as well. On this project, Eric - on lead vocals, guitars and harmonica - is joined by: Leo Goff on bass guitar and backing vocals; Walter Hughes on guitars, mandolin and backing vocals; Robert Nighthawk Tooms & Chris Stephenson on keyboards; and Doug McMinn on drums, congas and percussion.
As most of us know, there are all kinds of so called drinking games. Now, thanks to Eric Hughes, there's an official drinking game theme song. It's appropriately called "Drink Up", and it's the discs opening and title track. It's a snappy number with good rhythm and guitar work and it sounds like it's a heck of a song to dance.....and drink to. The catchy chorus line goes like this: "Drink up, drink up, drink up, lift your glass or your cup...
Don't tell me you've had enough, drink up, drink, up."
Unless, of course, you're the designated driver.
"That's My Baby's Mama" is Eric's way of referring to his ex, or as he says it - "my old used to be". Excellent lead vocals and backup harmony, smokin' rhythm led by Leo's deep bass lines and Doug's significant percussion - especially on the congas - and impressive organ and piano interludes easily make this one of the discs best.
Not everyone believes in black magic but us blues lover's all believe in blues magic. Since blues music is usually about bad things but yet it makes us all feel so good, you might just say that a blues musician is a "Blues Magician" - turning something bad into something good. Just ask any one of them and I'm sure you'll hear them say something like this - "I turn the sad to glad, but I ain't no magician, I sound good when I feel bad, I'm a blues musician." As I said, I'm a believer. Featuring strong blues vocals and lyrics and super blues harp blowin' from Eric with lots of blues guitar leads by Walter, this is one of the discs more traditional blues numbers. Which, of course, always rates high on my lists.
There are many things I never want to be told I've tested positive for, but hearing I've "Tested Positive For The Blues" is fine with me. That's what Eric's doctor told him, and we listeners are happy to hear it. Fun filled lyrics and real good guitar and piano leads from Walter and the keyboard cats highlight this one.
As a frequent visitor to Memphis, I've spent many a night partying while it was "Raining On Beale". Dealing with it is easy, you just stay in one club and drink up. This one's a cool, funky instrumental that for some reason made me think it would be a great theme song for a TV show. It's just got that feel. Leo and Doug, along with some help from the organist, are all of the rhythm right here, and Eric's guitar leads, as mellow and relaxed as they sound, are quite good.
Picture a scene you might see in a western movie that takes place along a boarder town in Texas. Now picture a bank robber arriving into town and heading into the bank. Now imagine the music you'd hear playing during this scene. You should mentally be listening to something that sounds like "The Ballad Of Weevil Point Willie". The lyrics may update the story but the music sounded just like I'd imagined it. Eric on the acoustic guitar, Walter on the mandolin and Doug on the drums are masterful on this one. Great track!
Other songs on "Drink Up", which features all original music, include: "Frostina", "Mama Don't Allow", "Repo Man", "Going To Brownsville", and "My Baby Got A Black Cat".
On a personal note, I want to say that I've had the pleasure of listening to all of Eric Hughes' releases and have also had the pleasure of seeing him live at least a half a dozen times. From those experiences, I highly recommend you go to www.erichughesband.com and find out how you can do the same. While you're there, tell him his buddy the Blewzzman sent you and that I'll see him on Beale Street sometime soon.
by Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro, 2013
Great Northern Blues Society
“Frostina” is my favorite song on this CD. This funk laden trip through the tribulations of being with a cold hearted woman will have you really groovin’ on the fine guitar playing of Hughes. Humorous lyrics have always been a favorite of mine when it comes to the Blues. The song “Tested Positive For The Blues” brings to mind the humor of Albert Collins and Rick Estrin from his Little Charlie & the Nightcats days and yes, I have had the same diagnosis! “Mama Don't Allow” is a little acoustic track that takes you back in time. Some of the funk resurfaces with the guitar and organ playing on “Repo Man.”
I am somewhat reminded of the TV theme song from Barney Miller on “Raining On Beale Street” and I have to tell you that was one of my favorite TV theme songs ever. I remember being pretty young, just laying on the living room floor, eyes closed and jammin’ in my head when that show would come on. I couldn’t move too much or dad would have thought I was on drugs! “Going To Brownsville” is a distortion laden acoustic track that stays acoustic until about a minute in and from then on you have some electric hill country stomp/boogie to drive it home. A picturesque story is painted on “The Ballad of Weevil Point Willie.” You know the stuff, money and guns along with some beautiful mandolin playing. “My Baby Got A Black Cat” closes this out CD and pretty much sums up how I feel about all cats but hey, that is a me problem!
Eric Hughes’ lead vocals, guitars and harmonica are backed up by Leo Goff on bass guitar and backing vocals - Walter Hughes on guitars, mandolin and backing vocals - Robert Nighthawk Tooms and Chris Stephenson on keyboards along with Doug McMinn on drums, congas and percussion. I highly suggest that you pick up a copy and better yet, grab one at a live show. Mr. Hughes will be in the area this week.