Michael P. Bischoff

Hugh Bob and the Hustle bring country to the city

Hugh Robert Masterson debuts "North Country" this weekend with shows at Cactus Club and Hotel Foster.

By - Sep 8th, 2012 04:00 am
On a cold March night last year I saw Hugh Robert Masterson outside a show at Mad Planet and he told me he had written a couple country songs. I had known Hugh at the time primarily as the bassist for The Wildbirds, but his face lit up when he spoke about writing country.

“We’re going to play them at our next show,” he said. “But I don’t want this to become a Wildbirds thing.”

On Saturday Sept. 8, Hugh Bob and the Hustle debuts their first album, North Country, with a show at Cactus Club (10 p.m., $10 includes CD) with special guest The Championship. The party continues on Sunday with an encore at Hotel Foster (7:30 p.m., $5 with a sale on the CD for only $5), featuring special guest Blessed Feathers and a premiere screening of Hugh Bob and the Hustle’s music video for their song “This Bar is a Prison.”

Hugh, of course, is Hugh Bob, and the Hustle is composed mostly of erstwhile Wildbirds: Nicolas Stuart on bass, Quinn Scharber on lead guitar, and Bradley Kruse on keys, and they’ve added Justin Krol on drums. The band recently returned from a short road trip to Nashville where they played several shows with IAMSOUND recording artist Nikki Lane, among several other notable artists. The trip to the spiritual home of country music was a proving ground for the band.

“I think for some people in the South they may have wondered what kind of [country music] sound we would have coming from the North,” Masterson (Hugh Bob) said. “But we got nothing but great responses.”

So how did the rest of the band respond to the switch from modern rock to outlaw country?

“[It] probably did seem like it would be a side project, but, after they heard a couple songs, and we worked on them in practice, I think they saw it as a chance to get back to having fun in sort of a new environment,” he said.

They might be new to playing country music, but their sound is tried-and-true. Influences range from Waylon Jennings to Alabama, George Jones and even Dwight Yoakam, but feels entirely organic and original.

With songs like “Ashland County,” “Milwaukee Man,” and “Butternut,” named for his hometown, and the album’s titular “North Country,” Hugh Bob pays tribute to the places he calls home, but in the coming months he’ll be spending more time singing about them and less seeing them.

“It’s off to NYC [in October] for a bunch of shows for CMJ [Music Marathon 2012]. Then in November we fly to L.A. to play a few shows with The Record Company… then in the Spring we will be in Austin for SXSW.”

Categories: Life & Leisure, Rock

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