Brad’s Very Hardly Barely is very really worthy
Listening to him now, it’s clear that Brad Huff’s career was just getting started with his former act, the Jim James Band. While that gig, which lasted for eight long years, got him some attention and off to a quick start, he’s only now beginning to find his real groove. On his solo debut, Very HardlyBarely (Record Breaking Records), the singer/songwriter busts out all the best goods: solid hooks, great melodies, and wry lyrics. It’s edgy but completely traditional, with a load of personality and heavy doses of tuneful intrigue. It takes Huff’s work with JJB and erects a tower atop it, with dynamic sophistication and stellar production. He’s using those years in his former band as leverage to help him hoist the musical weight he’s capable of lifting.
Playing nearly all the instruments on the album, Huff is also a real one-man band. He has an Eddie Vedder quality to his voice, with just enough Neil Diamond rasp to sound familiar and comfortable, and his guitar playing is also sturdy, suggesting the work of Neil Young on the droning “The Collision.” Songs such as the closing “22 Months” and “My Walk Down¬town” have moody overtones. But others — the three-chord stomper “Stripper Katie” and the whimsical and funky “Jellybeans” — shimmer with Huff’s humor and personality.
But it’s Huff’s lyrics that seize our attention. Part self-referential and part self-effacing, he’s an endearing and observant writer. “I’ve got my hands over my ears,” he sings on “Storm Windows.” “I’m talking about staying/I know that I’m leaving/I keep talking about staying to settle my fears/But I know that I’m leaving/I’ve been saying it for years.”
We’re not sure what Huff’s career goals are. He records and plays out sporadically and, apparently, he also has acting aspirations. He recently appeared as a featured extra during the second season of Showtime’s Providence-based series Brotherhood, and grabbed a role on the ill-fated Waterfront TV series. But if he chooses, he has a decent shot at this music thing. He’s a compelling performer with lots of tactile skills and enough of a gutsy, personal style to help him get where he might want to go.
Brad Huff + Robot Dick + Alien Father | March 22 | 9 pm | AS220, 115 Empire Street, Providence | $6 | 401.831.9327
A really big show
There’s something of a MARK CUTLER family reunion happening at Jake’s this Saturday. Almost every band our local hero plays in will be joining him on the bill for his birthday celebration.
The Dino Club, the Schemers, the Raindogs, and his acoustic hootenanny pals Men of Great Courage will all be turning up. “I don’t want it to be nostalgic,” Cutler insists. “I just want to play music with the people I’ve played with through the years. I want it to be like a real show.” For Cutler fans, the very idea of all these bands together for even a night sends hearts racing. Cutler has, since coming on the scene oh-so-many years ago, been a constant source of inspiration, a neverending font of melody and significance that has lit the way for many fans, not just here but across the country.
“The common thread between all of these acts is that the musicians play music because we love it,” he says. “And we’re all part of an extended family. At one point or another we’ve shared homes, helped each other move, spent holidays together, lost loved ones, had babies, got divorced, married, loved and hated. For my birthday, playing with all these guys is one of the best gifts I could receive. I hope that doesn’t sound corny.” Not corny . . . perfect.
: New England Music News
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