Sonny Landreth sums up Josh Hyde succinctly; funky, atmospheric, and soulful. The name of producer/guitarist Joe V. McMahon caught my attention immediately due to the great work he has done with Kevin Gordon, Sarah Potenza and Mike Farris, among others. It turns out that Kevin Gordon, also a native Louisianan, introduced Hyde to McMahan. Then, viewing the supporting cast that includes guest spots from guitarists Landreth and Buddy Flett; as well as the familiar names of percussionist Bryan Owings and bassist Ron Eoff; I sensed that Hyde had chosen well and carefully – well stocked in the guitar department and John Gros with plenty of supporting organ. The right ingredients were in place.
Across the first few tracks, I thought back to Robbie Robertson’s Storyville and to Daniel Lanois’ For the Beauty of Wynona. Touches of Anders Osborne were there too. Then, Hyde didn’t remind me of anyone else but came across clearly as a native son with aspects of those sounds. His songwriting, emotive voice, shifting of moods, and melodic touch across these funky to darkly ethereal to exuberant nine tunes is strikingly compelling. The opening title track (perhaps related to his mother’s death) has the unforgettable image of “a slow heart attack, your smile shining thru me.” The pleading aspects of “It’s Not Too Late” are bolstered by Landreth’s slide guitar while the tale of infidelity in “Offshore” features one of Landreth’s best and most economical solos. Flett’s acoustic guitar colors “Close” and “Mississippi Bridge.” I’ll get back to “Offshore” and “Mississippi Bridge” later but some background on Hyde is in order first.
Hyde was born in Baton Rouge but moved to New Orleans when he was seven years old. Although he was there for only three or four years, the city made its impression on him. His parents were divorced before he became a teenager, when he began living in Alexandria with his mother and traveling to Baton Rouge by bus every other weekend to visit his father. So, in the late ’70s, at the ripe age of eleven years old, he penned “Mississippi Bridge.” Hyde explains, “It’s just a picture of the world inside that bus. People don’t ride buses anymore, so it’s kind of like a throwback piece now. For a 10- or 11-year-old it was a little bit scary but it was also an adventure. I got to know the bus driver, he was a nice guy. We would stop at every little town between Alexandria and Baton Rouge.”
Hyde, who began playing guitar at the age of ten, eventually became a popular act in clubs and festivals throughout Louisiana. In his late 20s, he fell in love with slide guitar after hearing Sonny Landreth. Hyde says, “I met him at a few different shows and we got to know each other,” Hyde says. “Offshore,” which is kind of a song about ‘high infidelity,’ was the perfect South Louisiana song for Sonny to play on. He has a very unique style to his slide guitar. It’s an open tuning and he has a very violin-like way of playing. I had been talking to him about this song for a long time.”
The song’s reference to the mysterious, mythical figure of “Jody” may be lost on some, but men who work the offshore oil rigs off the Louisiana coast may find it eerily familiar. “In Louisiana, a great deal of the men work offshore, working 14 days on 14 days off,” Hyde notes. “There’s kind of a mythological character in the offshore world and his name is Jody. Jody is the guy that’s having an affair with your girlfriend or your wife while you’re out on the oil rig. ‘Jody is creeping around your house.’ When I play that song live, especially if there’s somebody in the audience that works offshore, they always come and talk to me about it.”
Those who listen to this disc will not only be talking about that tune. They’ll be talking about what a terrific new artist they just heard.
Copyright 2015. Josh Hyde. All Rights Reserved. Photography by David Lind.