Hughes Taylor's "Restless" Release Show
"You can't play that on the radio, Hughes!"
This momentary exclamation that introduces Hughes Taylor's new album Restless sums up the plight of blues music in the 21st century quite well. Blues songs, particularly in the traditional twelve-bar format, are hard to find on anything other than satellite radio these days; and yet, one doesn't have to drive too far in Georgia to find a blues band playing late into the night at one of a dozen different bars and restaurants. On Monday evening, I drove down to Smith's Olde Bar in Atlanta to catch Hughes Taylor for the second time this year. Once again, he proved that what some may call an antiquated style of music may, in fact, have quite a bright future.
Joining Hughes were two other talented groups that kept the audience's eyes glued to the stage. Whiskey Tango started the evening with an energetic rock n' roll set that included a noteworthy cover of Queen and David Bowie's "Under Pressure." Following them were Shameless James, another nifty trio that focused more on punchy funk tunes that had several audience members hopping out of their seats to dance.
Hughes Taylor took the stage with his trio and ripped into the fuzz-laden song "Wake Me," one of two tracks on Restless that feature an attitude and swagger reminiscent of The Black Keys and Jack White. Taylor's voice cut through clearly in the midst of a tight, powerful rhythm section made up of drummer Celeena Corbin and bassist Nate Lee.
For the big night of the album release, Taylor made sure to include "Promise," a major key blues song written for his fiance Evie that calls to mind the softer side of Stevie Ray Vaughan. I couldn't help but notice that the band's chops really came into focus during these lighter arrangements. Much of what makes a great blues band revolves around dynamics and spacing and all three members of the band displayed their affinity for these musical disciplines, backing off when necessary or pushing harder when a guitar solo reached its zenith.
While the album starts with a more modern feel, it quickly transitions towards the roots from which Taylor grew as a guitar player and songwriter. And although other tracks on the album like the shuffling "Gotta Find My Way Home" or the slower "The Way You Used to Love Me (The Angry Blues Song)" were in the same vein of tried-and-true blues style, I found myself grinning while listening to "Three Little Words" on the way home from Atlanta. From its Clapton-esque foundation to the dressings of slide guitar riffs you'd hear from the late, great Duane Allman, this song was a great representation of Mr. Taylor’s Macon heritage and a fitting homage to his heroes.