DON'T BE FOOLED BY THE HAT ... OR THE TIKI
I have a good friend whose areas of interest and education include the
history of Virginia and New Orleans, weaponry of the old West, aviation in
general and naval aviation in particular, and the Civil War.
He is a pilot out of love, and his vocation is photographer for a
civilian paper that covers Norfolk, Virginia, and other nearby Navy bases.
When I read Ray McAllister's article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on
Hugo playing at Hollywood Cemetery, I sent it to my friend Mike, knowing he'd
be interested. He wrote back,
"Thanks for the Times Dispatch piece. I
was going to ask how you came to know him, until I read the JB stuff!
I smiled to myself, of course. And
then I realized that, while the article mentions that Hugo (and Pickett) "play
a variety of acoustic music, including Jimmy Buffett and Buffett-type songs,"
and even though I discovered Hugo's music through attendance at Meeting of the
Minds ... I don't think of Hugo as a "parrothead" musician.
In fact, In reviewing the inventory of songs on his three CDs, you'd be
hard-pressed to define him as such. Only
one song on his first CD, a handful on his second, and none on his newest, fit
into what is generally understood and variously labelled as "parrothead," "troprock," or
"Caribbean rock" music.
So ... what do we call what Hugo writes and plays?
Another friend of mine, a singer/songwriter who also plays at MotM but who,
like Hugo, falls outside of the easily defineable "parrothead" genre,
introduced me to the term "Americana" as applied to music. So, I looked it up, and found this definition:
"Americana (music) is a loose subset of American roots music, that is
perhaps best defined as 'classic American music' -- ranging in style from folk,
country, and roots
rock." -- from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Americana_(music)
That works for me, to a degree. I
can accept Hugo classified as an Americana singer/songwriter.
Certainly, we all love the "island' songs; "Ring the Bells," "Somewhere Headed South,"
"Key West Heart," and my favorite, "Another
Day in Paradise." But they
don't define a writer who also produces "hat" songs like "Legend," "Willie's Country Store,"
"Danged Old Truck," and "Hillbilly
Beach." And there are the
mainstream radio-type songs, like "Reckless Loving," "You Are the One I
Love," and "Hold On to Your Love," and the romantic songs, such as "Let 'em Roll" and
"We've Got Dreams." And there are the undefineable but gripping songs like
"Sawgrass" and "Hidden River."
Most of Hugo's work has an emotional core that is as irresistable to some
of us as true north is to a compass needle.
Love and friendship, expressed with the heart that Hugo seems unafraid to
open to his listeners, are certainly powerful forces.
But it is the depth of thought and reflection invested in the best of his
work that I think takes Hugo beyond "songwriter," which is a craft, and
defines him as an "artist," which is a calling.
The designation "artist" requires not only talent, but insight, and
the courage to share one's vision ... even, a lot of the time, with too many
people who just don't "get it."
So, Americana. "... ranging
in style from folk, country blues, bluegrass, alternative country, and roots
rock." A good definition, as far
as it goes, in describing Hugo's style.
But it falls short of describing what it is about Hugo's songs that
draws the listener in.
Those of us who do "get it" ... know. "Americana" describes the glass
... what's in that tall cool drink
may be more undefineable, but it is the stuff of life.
~ 30 ~