EUGENE “Hideaway” BRIDGES Live in San Antonio (2009) Armadillo Records
Rock and a Hard Place (2011) Armadillo Records
OK, kiddies… the latest from the almost-Aussie Texan Bridges – I will presume that y’all know who he is… if you don’t, why are you reading this magazine! There are very few younger (mid-40s) African Americans who “do” this music and have come into it organically (rather than via Stefan Grossman instructional videos!). Eugene’s background is rooted both in the Black churches of his Sunday mornings, as well as in the Saturday nights of his fathers juke joint. Somehow “discovered” for Australians by Chris Ruhle of 2MBS’s “Stormy Monday” fame, Bridges has made many a trip to these shores in the past decade, so many that he has at least two bands to play with him, one on the East Coast, another out of Perth. This is important, for he tends NOT to do covers and writes some of the better material in the genre himself. One of a small and diminishing crowd of Black American musicians presenting modern blues, Eugene “Hideaway” Bridges is the real deal.
The first CD was done in San Antonio, Texas at Chango’s Havana Club (how’s that for a mixed metaphor!) with the program being thirteen of his originals, plus two songs associated with Sam Cooke. A tight rhythm section and a small horn section make this a “full” sounding gig (he’s worked occasionally with horns in Sydney when the money’s big enough – he travels with horn charts in his briefcase, just in case!). Eugene even takes some of the stereotypical tropes and makes something new with them (“I Got the Blues”, “Woke Up This Morning”, “Little Boy Blue” being the lead-off songs, all originals in spite of the titles). This is a well-recorded program that sums up much of Bridges material up to that point in time; he plays and sings like he’s on fire and the band is right in there tightly behind him. This CD is a fine representative slice of his songs and his performance approach; you’re right there for this summary program – highly recommended. For those new to him, imagine Sam Cooke’s singing and song writing coupled with B.B. King’s guitar playing and song writing for over an hour – you’d be in the ballpark, but he’s really just Eugene and nobody else. That’s a good thing, for the blues are in good hands here with Mr. Bridges – certainly the crowd in the club thought so, and so will you after listening to this CD! Put it on, and “Jump For Joy”… I dare you to sit still.
The latest album was also done in Texas (a studio in Austin)… the same bass and keyboard player, plus the same tenor sax/arranger are all on hand… in a program of fifteen new songs. Once again, Eugene shows his knowledge and love for this music all through this wonderful collection. All the songs are well-written within the traditions that Eugene espouses – there is even a tribute to B.B. King as the last one on the recording. Blues material is mainly about the problems, the positives and negatives, that transpire in male/female relationships; you know, the subject of most popular music! Exceptionally well-recorded and played, Bridges sings like a secular angel. There’s more than the standard 12-bar fare here; REAL examples of Rhythm ’n’ Blues complete with backup singers; a swinging instrumental; a touch of the “down home”, and a country piece with steel guitarist Lloyd Maines! Really a good and fun listen with lots of variety, folks. Another “keeper”.
Get the first album reviewed to obtain a compilation overview of past Eugene “Hideaway” Bridges material in a “live” situation. “Rock & A Hard Place” is a clutch of fifteen new songs done only as Eugene can do – if you’re familiar with his work (and you should be), you’ll know that this is quality. If you’re new to him, it’s as good a place to begin. Good stuff.
PETER B. LOWRY
pub: THE BLUES TIMES; No 226, Jan 2012, p.8.