The ‘Graveyard Full Of Blues,’ project is a split download / CD release featuring two concise albums of lo-fi sounds from the Scottish Blues underground: ‘Pennies On My Eyes,’ written, produced and performed by CRAIG HUGHES and ‘Build That Coffin Of Mine,’ written, produced and performed by SLEEPY EYES NELSON. The project is the first collaboration from Channel Nowhere and Cheap Wine Records.
Blues music, I feel at least, generally splits opinion: it’s loved and loathed in equal measure. However, the latter assessment is frequently (in these days of ‘instant’ and ‘disposable’ music) borne out of either a lack of patience to give it a proper listen or ignorance of the many forms in which it can be presented.
‘Graveyard Of Blues’ is an interesting concept, not least because you don’t see many ‘split albums’ around these days, but because the two contributing artists should at least go some way to enlightening those people who think Blues comes only in ‘one size fits all’ format. Their styles couldn’t be more different.
Both albums are certainly mainly just either Craig or Sleepy Eyes Nelson singing with no accompaniment other than an acoustic / steel guitar or banjo. However, on the first half of the album, Craig’s previous experiences in alternative rock bands of the late 80’s and 90’s shine through. His style is more aggressive and abrasive, with his rasping voice giving all he tracks a really gritty feel. On ‘Pennies On My Eyes’ however, his mood is generally more reflective than on his last album, ‘Pissed Off, Bitter And Willing To Share,’ when his mood was exactly as it says on the ‘tin.’
As the album title and the name of the overall ‘project’ imply, several of the tracks at least are related to death in some manner or other and the regrets of the deceased. It sounds quite heavy, but it’s actually pretty thought provoking and the lyrics are the sorts that do make the listener ‘listen.’ Craig plays several of the tracks ‘bottleneck’ / slide style, but there is good variation both in terms of mood and pace. ‘Babe I’m Going Nowhere’ for example has more of a Bluegrass feel, prompted by the banjo playing, while ‘It’ll Have To Do’ has more of a Johnny Cash / Country rhythm and feel. ‘My Side Of The Veil’ on the other hand is one of those dealing with death and regret and is obviously slower, but features some nice ‘picking.’
‘That Old Red Mist Comes Down’ is the tale of controlling anger and is one of those songs that I mentioned really draws the listener into the story. And again, it’s not a heavy or morose sound – there is a good foot-tapping bounce to this one.
‘Oily Old Rag’ closes Craig’s contribution to the split. At five minutes it’s the longest of the combined nineteen tracks and is a mix of some lovely slide guitar and a stomping / kick box chorus.
SLEEPY EYES NELSON supplies the remaining eleven tracks. These sound more gentle in nature compared to the preceding eight and certainly highlight a marked difference in style. They all have a more traditional Delta Blues / Country Blues feel to them, accentuated by the vocals being given a slightly ‘distant’ sound as was the case with the original pioneering recording artists from the Deep South all those many years ago.
He has a tremendously authentic feel about his laying and singing, and it’s no surprise to learn that he was discovered by American label Devil’s Ruin Records for whom he has recorded three albums. Again, as with Craig, the songs generally have a positive and bouncy refrain. Those who thing Blues music is simply about plaintive wailing and drudgery should listen to this. It’s all pretty uplifting actually, and once again there is enough variation in pace and mood to keep it interesting right to the end. Of SLEEPY EYES NELSON’S eleven songs, only two breach the three-minute mark – another aspect that reflects the more traditional aspects of his music.
All in all, this ‘split’ album is a great idea, showcasing two very different styles and moods of Blues music. There’s no value in trying to ‘compare and contrast’ the two artists – all I can say is that they perfectly compliment each other in style and presentation, to make this an excellent album for Blues aficionados and novices to explore.
(The albums are available, at special low prices, as separate downloads. ‘Pennies On My Eyes’ can be had from craighughes.bandcamp.com – also accessible via www.craighughes.net – and ‘Build that Coffin Of Mine’ can be had from cheapwinerecords.bandcamp.com. Alternatively, both albums are available together on one ‘Graveyard Full Of Blues’ CD, from gigs or via either of the aforementioned Bandcamp stores.)
(Released December 2010)