As a huge fan of his 2009 release, Pissed Off, Bitter and Willing to Share, I’d been looking forward to his second album for quite some time. Last year’s Hard Times: Volume 1 EP was a welcome holding piece and reminder that Mr Hughes writes some damn fine songs.
Heck, that’s why Pissed Off sat comfortably among the best albums of 2009. Anyhoo, this is all about the new one, Losers and Bastards.
There’s been a lot written over the years from way better writers than me about Craig’s music. I put it up there next to R.L. (who just happens to be my favourite bluesman). He tells a truth. Mixes the darkness and the light – often in the same song – and really just colours the grey. It packs a punch, I tell ya. But let’s not pigeon-hole this as a blues record, as there’s just so much going on. Sure, the essence is blues, but this is something more.
While it’s very much aligned to both Pissed Off and Hard Times, it’s clear that this is coloured and shaded from pretty much every record Mr Hughes might ever loved and gave a damn about. But it’s totally, unapologetically and unmistakeably, Craig Hughes.
Sure there’s a load of pessimism (Happy Man Cries) and sadness, but there’s contemplation (Last Orders (When I Die) or Wood and Wire), Hughes’ humour and positivity (Future After All). Along with his signature slide riffage – both acoustified (A Strongman and an Acrobat being a particular highlight) and electrified (Everybody’s Got to Cheat and Lie Some Times) – there’s some foot stomping (Beans and Bread), some flamenco (yeah, you read that right) and some boom-chicka-boom (White Water). Trust me, it’s a Helluva vibrant record.
There’s nothing as preposterously incredible as Hard Times’ Cave Full of Women Bones (there are no superlatives to suitably describe that), but who needs that when Hughes, band in tow, swaggers through the most excellent Dressed in Rags. A quite incredible nod to ZZ Top (the song would fit seamlessly on Fandango! or Tres Hombres).
I mentioned Future After All very briefly and that’s because I really can’t find the words to express just how brilliant that song is. You’ll hear that yourself, I’m sure.
So yeah, that’s a bit about Losers and Bastards. It’s bloody brilliant. Not just Hughes’ best, but one of 2013s.
I tip my hat to you, sir.