Tod Hughes Makes Time Stand Still

Tod Hughes

Drawing inspiration from roots and folk, singer songwriter Tod Hughes has released the follow-up to his debut EP Changing Gears, with the anticipated full-length album Time Slow Down.

The album starts with its title track  “Time Slow Down”, immediately one can’t help but to agreeably nod their head to the upbeat vibe and good-natured lyrics with Hughes’ plea to an unrelenting Father Time.                                                                                                            

With rock and folk music essentially starting from scratch in a lot of ways basic song structure has become increasingly en vogue. On Time Stand Still, Tod Hughes has taken that notion of simplified song structure but did well to fuse multiple instrumental layers courtesy of his Collective; the name bestowed to his band. There is an overall cleanliness to the audio production on Time Stand Still, and while the album does not reinvent a genre, what it does do is shuck the gritty and distortion filled trend that much of the current popular throwback music thrives off of.

Classification of Time Stand Still is interestingly paradoxical. Upon a peripheral listen it is easy to lump the native of Winnipeg in with the folk genre (or subgenre thereof) and call it a day. Incorporating a banjo with several layers of guitars, both acoustic and electric is after all a comfortable enough fit with folk music. However, after multiple spins and a closer listen Hughes has done something subtle in his art; essentially creating music that one swears they have heard before, yet pinpointing exactly where or by whom proves challenging.

Coming out of WW2, Big Band and Swing music began incorporating trumpets and flutes over the newly embraced electric guitar. While one would not easily associate Time Stand Still with the music directly coming out of the 1950’s, Hughes very naturally manages to pull off a similar instrumental cocktail on the album.

Basically categorizing Hughes’ work on Time Stand Still is like hypothetically taking Robert Plant’s “Sea Of Love”, and mashing it with Rosemary Clooney’s “Sway” and Elvis Costello’s “You’ll Never Be A Man”, it’s like a familiar oddity.

On the track “Nothing Too Obscure”, Hughes takes inspiration from fellow countryman Leonard Cohen with his vocal harmony. Wisely Hughes does not try to emulate the Canadian legend, he merely checks in with the harmony while continuing to lend his own clean style of vocals to the production. With inspirations like the aforementioned Cohen as well as Bob Dylan and Neil Young, Hughes draws from his love of down-home storytelling on the album. Often utilizing a theme of underlying optimism lyrically throughout the LP, the singer-songwriter’s underlying stories of hope do well to compliment the tempo and use of upbeat (both musically and thematically) the band plays utilizes on “One Of A Kind” and the album as a whole.

One of the songs generating buzz off the album is “Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place”. Perhaps a bit of tongue in cheek or bitterly ironic, I’ve always found it a trifle strange when a hipster takes aim at hipsters or the hipster movement. Regardless,” Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place” plays a lot like the oft covered tune” Gloria”, written and recorded in 1964 by my ex-employer Van Morrison.

Tod Hughes has the ability to appeal to all age ranges as well as across several (musical) genres, often challenging the human brain’s necessity to categorize. Nevermore so does Time Stand Still make one’s temporal lobe work to file and arrange than on “Coming Home To You”.

A few bars into “Coming Home to You” Hughes introduces a Harry Chapin type harmony, specifically from the 1977 #1 hit “Cats in the Cradle”. As if Hughes fell asleep with the radio on one afternoon only to awake feeling inspired to write a new intro for the song about the father / son relationship. I actually believed that he was covering Chapin’s only song to top the charts. A cover of the song of “Cats in the Cradle” that would seemingly land in the middle of Chapin’s rather soft original and the more aggressive 1993 rendition performed by Ugly Kid Joe (from the album America’s Least Wanted).

Ironically failing to live up to its name, the album’s seventh offering “Worth Waiting For”, proves to be the first and only rather blasé track on the LP; save for the terrific backup vocals by the unaccredited female vocalist.

“Darkness that Cries” marks the eighth track on Time Stand Still, and is another chapter in the continually growing line of hommages tributed to The Man In Black. Almost a rite of passage, Tod Hughes unveils his storyline over a music bed tipping its hat to the song “Sunday Morning Coming Down”. Kris Kristofferson, having written the classic track, has been quoted as saying that Johnny Cash performing “Sunday Morning Coming Down” allowed him to quit working a day job. With his passion it will be interesting to see if “Darkness that Cries” affords Hughes a similar career fate to that of Kristofferson.