Hugh Moffatt - Only Along For The Ride

SOHL Recordings SOHLCD0002

Long-haired singer-songwriter Hugh Moffatt has been providing Nashville stars such as Ronnie Milsap, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Rex Allen Jr, Alabama, Joe Sun, Johnny Rodriguez and others with hit songs since 1974. He left Nashville in 1998 because: ‘I went out of style.’ He moved to Pullman, Washington, to work for a high-tech company. Now retired, he returned to Nashville a couple of years ago. Very much a modern troubadour, Hugh packs his guitar and takes his songs and music on the road when the fancy takes him. He plays small clubs in America and Europe, where he has a cult following for his invigorating and deeply enriching musical style. He returns to the UK this February for his latest tour, which ties in neatly with this new album, a collection of solid melodramas perfectly suited to Hugh’s mature self-assured vocal styling and storytelling tradition.

Possessing a restless, endlessly inventive imagination, he is a protean artist, his records moving from easy economy to something denser and more allusive. Filled with tales of loss and hope, demons and saints, and the lure of star-crossed love, Hugh reveals a talent for thoughtful, mellow music that avoids being mundane. You can’t help but be moved when listening to the sensitive tale of Last Quarter Moon, that has real meaning and emotion. Then he can come up with the rhythmic Cover Me, a great throwback to the 1950s. The song starts off with an edgy feel, building toward a chorus that is more pleasing each time it comes around. Several of the songs are reflections of the past, looking back at family, relationships and unfulfilled dreams. Remembering reeks of sentimentality as he croons over a tingling guitar-licked arrangement. I Knew Her When, though a highly personal song about the loss of a parent, has a theme that is universal and you can tell that he’s not just emoting emotions, he’s feeling them. Just as stirring is Light A Candle, the lyric is powerful and it’s a perfect showcase for his deeply affecting vocal style. He displays his inventive storytelling and his understanding of the roots of country music with the tale of Tiger’s, a long extinct Nashville bar, which has now been built over by the Nashville Convention Centre. He captures the vibe of the singers, musicians and people that inhabited this once popular honky-tonk with a rare skill in the very best tradition of a Texas troubadour. 

There’s a warmth all over this album: in the shimmering production, in the players’ performances and in the slow, sweet sway that underlies all the album tracks. If you like moody, sometimes dark, captivating folk-country music, punctuated by beautiful musicianship and artistry, then you will find nothing to dislike here. Catch his live show, and grab yourself a copy of this quietly absorbing album along the way.