Tod Hughes Project – Changin’ Gears
There needs to be more space in the world for warm, unpretentious acts like this. Tod Hughes leads a band capable of aping traditional country, but equally capable of playing with smiling, wide-eyed rock and roll abandon. His appealingly rusty, sarcastic voice has deceptive levels of sensitivity that turn tunes with otherwise narrow appeal into more encompassing efforts. Despite declaring icons like Dylan and Cash to wield direct influence over his music, Hughes’ songs are much smaller affairs, small screen narratives plucked from everyday life.
“Let’s Dance” is a big example of just such a song. The relatively un-ambitious subject matter urging the object of the singer’s affections to seize a chance for real, if momentary, happiness prospers when placed against the band’s muscular backing. The following song, “Follow Your Heart”, is a paler effort that adopts a more casual approach. While it’s a pleasant experience, listeners are right to assume songs titled as such and taking on this subject matter might benefit from energy and creativity appropriate for the subject.
“Brad’s Song” impresses because of the loose confidence the band displays, but even its attempts at humor are a little lacking. The title hints at a stronger point of view than what emerges from the lyrics, but an alternative point of view says Hughes simply refrains from browbeating the listener with a lot of useless detail. “Just Sing” plays a bit coy and childlike, but it isn’t difficult to imagine the song investing any audience with a warm glow. The traditional instruments feel like they’ve been added as an arbitrary afterthought rather than a natural outgrowth of the song, but they bring tasteful colors to the song.
“The Quiet” bubbles and percolates with genuine rock and roll spirit. It’s a surprising twist on an album that, until this point, remains singularly devoted to manifesting the twang. The confident vocal from Hughes is another unexpected surprise that pushes this track to a higher level. “The Only Person Who Won’t Drink with Me Is You” finishes the EP with some sleek, rough and tumble rockabilly with dark-spun humor.
Changin’ Gears doesn’t have enough gears to justify its title – it’d be fantastic to hear more of the atmospheric rock the Tod Hughes Project calls up on “The Quiet” and less of played-out pop like “Follow Your Heart”. It is worthwhile seeking the EP out, however, as Hughes clearly establishes himself as an important new talent.
Score: 7 out of 10 stars