Minutes & Miles
WANTED: One working-class musician. Requirements include: minimum ten years' worth of piano lessons (mostly classical); a staunch upbringing in traditional country and bluegrass (experience with Hee-Haw and Austin City Limits preferred); a solid background in blues/rock guitar (Van Halen a plus); and a profound respect and appreciation for the "singer-songwriter" (e.g. James Taylor, Johnny Cash, Sting, Dave Matthews, Seal). Must take music seriously but not self. Serious inquiries only. If you're wondering what a rockin', guitar slinging, classical piano playing, country-raised singer-songwriter from ultra-rural eastern North Carolina would sound like, then Minutes and Miles, the debut album from Chuck Hodges, should satisfy your curiosity. And then some. MUSIC WITHOUT BOUNDARIES Steeped in the traditions of the great singer-songwriters of yesteryear, nothing seems to be musically off-limits to this aspiring musician from the Carolina swamplands. Born the son of a well-known local musician, Chuck was exposed to live music at an early age. Chuck's parents ran the The Downtowner, the town drinking hole where the locals would gather to drink, dance and fight - usually in that order. On Friday nights, Chuck's father, Charlie, fronted The Downtowner's house band, "Charlie and His Devils." They'd cover everything from Buck Owens to CCR, Johnny Cash to James Taylor, Waylon & Willie to the Eagles. Chuck spent many a night soaking up The Downtowner's blue- collar atmosphere, playing pool, helping to make pizzas, stealing sips from his dad's can of Pabst Blue Ribbon, and sacking out on the floor of the back room until closing time. On occasion, the ultimate for the adolescent musician-to-be: Charlie would coax Chuck to the stage for a rendition of Tom T. Hall's "Sneaky Snake." It was this rich -- if slightly unsavory -- education in Honkytonk 101 that would lay the groundwork for Chuck's passion for music and performing. Around age 8, Chuck took up the piano and quickly developed a love of the classical masters. Strains of Mozart, Bach, Brahms and Beethoven could be heard in the Hodges household amidst the records and 8-tracks that completely captivated Chuck. Tom Petty, Steve Miller, Journey, the original Star Wars movie soundtrack - all were in the rotation. "I remember playing 'Winning' by Santana over and over," he recalls. "I'm surprised I didn't wear the vinyl off the record." Saturdays in the Hodges household meant two things: Hee Haw and Austin City Limits. The musical discovery continued, until at age 17, an epiphany: Chuck saw his first Van Halen concert and would never be the same. The guitar quickly became his instrument of choice. Now, Chuck combines a throwback lyrical and vocal vibe with elements of progressive modern rock and alt-country to create a bluesy, folksy, roots-rockish guitar-centric sound characterized by lush three-part harmonies, guitar-intensive arrangements and thoughtful lyricism. Think James Taylor's melodic understatement with some of Dave Matthews' edgy unpredictability and Keith Urban's new country fire ... yeah, that about sums it up. ALL ABOUT THE SONGS If Chuck's upbringing was a case study in musical diversity, then Minutes and Miles represents the convergence of many musical roads. There's the rollicking roots-rocking playfulness of "I Give In, I Give Up" and "Waitin' Outside In The Rain," the mellow grooving of "In Between," the slow blues burn of "Lately" and the Hendrix-like guitar work of the disc's final cut, "Ebb and Flow." "Anna," a powered-up, country-rocker with plenty of Tele twang gives way to "Whatever Happens" and it's four-part guitar overload, while "Head Up High," with it's rhythmic acoustic fingerpicking, takes on an inspirational tone. But the highlight of the set is the title track, with it's rich vocal arrangements, soaring piano solo and a spine-tingling outro that borders on epic (thanks to two fantastic backing vocalists). Minutes and Miles: the independent debut from singer-songwriter Chuck Hodges.