24 Hours To Nowhere - Hugo Race Fatalists (Rough Velvet/Glitterhouse)
Brilliant. Not my favourite Race record, but nonetheless, another of his albums I’ll be listening to over and over, year in and year out.
Why? Well, apart from anything else, this is one of the most commercially accessible LPs I’ve heard Hugo do. And I’m sure this is more or less by accident.
If you recall that appalling period between say, 1968 and 1978, you will readily wince at those mega-star mega-unit-shifting characters like (original hipster) Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, and there was an entire raft of similar irritants. Mostly, their LPs had a few damn fine songs on there, rather like some of Frank Sinatra’s, and rather a lot of filler. And filler, of course, is what put me off. I mean, Johnny Cash did some brilliant songs, as we all know. But I don’t know anyone who considers it essential to own all of them.
Similarly, I recognise that exponents of the sweet blues like Robert Cray or Adelaide’s Chris Finnen can play the most amazing material. I can’t stand Robert Cray (and any lp of his which comes my way will head straight for someone who will appreciate him), and while I’ve heard and seen Chris do the most amazing things, I feel no urge to have his entire recorded output.
Instead, imagine a man whose life on the road, around the globe, has become his vision, his everything, his follow-on, his everyday, his path of correction and road to redemption. Imagine a smarter Jack Kerouac, who inhabited the blues in such a way as to re-imagine and re-invent it around his own battered hurt and struggling uphill battle with pride and discovery.
Hugo Race no more plays the blues than he does C&W, yet in "24 Hours to Nowhere" you can imagine Kenny or Dolly or Johnny or Chris or even Robert picking up a guitar and trying these songs on for size. And then, building a new live set around the LP.
Yeah, "24 Hours To Nowhere" really is that good. While there are musical heroes whose best work is long behind them, and who do deserve their current affection if not acclaim, musicians like Hugo Race has simply become … well, I’m not really sure. He just seems to get better. Rewriting the codes, rewiring his expression, trying to crack his own ciphers and delivering complexities in simplicities… quite extraordinary.
Put it another way. The Wreckery, Hugo’s first major band, was extremely successful and damn near got drawn into the maelstrom of commercial acceptance. In a parallel universe, perhaps, a weaker, lamer version of The Wreckery is still out there, peddling increasingly watered-down light ale like Van M******n. In this universe, however, Race has adventured and travelled on the veriest of shoestrings, churning out fine albums on a regular basis.
This alone should have you reaching for your credit card. Go to hugoracemusic.com