When we first began planning for this project, Hugh felt instinctively that, no matter the repertoire, he wanted other voices than just his own animating the songs, and we cast the room, again, like one might a play. The narrative arc threading through the whole would dictate who should enter and exit the stage; who would speak, and when. Thus we hear an authentic vocal troupe at work…Hugh out front, but leading a deft ensemble made up of most singular players: the mighty Jean McClain, the sweet and salty Gaby Moreno of Guatemala, and, of course, the legendary and heroic Taj Mahal, who took us all to school, even as he humbly joined our own.
The band was likewise built of tough customers –equally unique, each and every one: Jay Bellerose is there on drums sounding like Noah building an ark out of the very same animals he intends to ferry; David Piltch is back on the big bass, floating and anchoring that boat simultaneously. Greg Leisz and Kevin Breit are foxhole buddies, swapping mandola, lap steel, and guitar duties between them like letters from home and dwindling cigarette rations. The extraordinary Vincent Henry –a now not-so secret weapon in Hugh’s touring band— is joined by young Robby Marshall (another veteran of the Let Them Talk sessions) on reeds –their small section shored up by Elizabeth Lea on trombone, who offers all the strength and cracked muddy smear of a New Orleans levy. Patrick Warren is quietly essential on an array of keys both modern and arcane; and he is joined, when extra heft is called for, by the wondrous Larry Goldings on the Hammond B3.