Country music is an intensely confusing genre of music. It's easy for someone to say "I hate country music" these days, because when most people think of country music, it's the Taylor Swifts, Dierks Bentleys and Blake Sheltons that they're more than likely speaking of. I'll be the first to tell you: modern popular "country" music is the pits.
Having said that, the page is turning on country music, and labels are snatching up artists like The Lumineers, Father John Misty, and Alabama Shakes, who all have deep country music influences. Not coincidentally, these artists have all released albums this year that will be gracing many Top Ten lists from many of my journalist colleagues.
Enter: Hugh Bob & The Hustle.
Already a pseudo-legend here in Milwaukee, Hugh Masterson has been a critical part of the city's music scene for some time now, most recently as the bassist for an act called The Wildbirds, who were a local favorite of many people in the city. After the split of The Wildbirds, Masterson decided to take the role of frontman and focus on song writing. The result is the debut effort of Hugh Bob & The Hustle, a self-titled, full-length album.
The album is a healthy length, with 11 songs coming in at around 40 minutes total play time. The songs seem to be very therapeutic and autobiographical for Masterson, while still managing to sound like old fashioned, northern folklore-based country songs. The album's lead off song, "Ashland County" is named for the actual county Hugh Bob himself hails from, while "Milwaukee Man" pays homage to his current city of residence. Other standout tracks include the uptempo "Blame Me" and the catchy "Passenger Side" which features a hefty amount of giddy organ parts.
It's difficult to describe Hugh Bob's debut album as anything but traditional, but by no means is it generic; the songs get a little hokey at times (for example "This Bars A Prison"), but that's not saying that they're stale. Even when the lyrics illicit a smirk, the melodies prove to be overcoming and incredibly enjoyable.
A noteworthy element to the album is the guest stars, which include Nathaniel Markman (violinist, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros), Jon Graboff (guitar/slide-guitar, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals) and Nashville-based singer Nikki Lane all contribute to songs on the album.
The album is definitely worth checking out, which you can do at the band's Soundcloud page, and you can take a listen to the track "Blame Me" below.
The band will be playing CMJ in New York this week:
Wednesday, Oct. 18 - Rockwood Music Hall @ Midnight
Thursday, Oct. 19 - Bowery Electric @ 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 19 - Cake Shop @ 10 p.m.
Purchase Hugh Bob & The Hustle on iTunes Here