On the 10th of April this year Barry Jay Hughes, a singer songwriter from Co. Monaghan realised his debut EP ‘This Way Up’. It’s great to see a lot of Irish artists pushing a variety of genres and styles at the moment, however I found ‘This Way Up’ to be looking to the not too distant past with regards to its genre. It was all a little too 90’s to be considered retro just yet. That’s not too say that this is actually a very interesting and well written EP; primarily held up by Barry’s voice which reminds me of a young Eddie Vedder. His extensive range coupled with a deep timbre create a depth to his melodies that would otherwise probably sound quite unspectacular.
The opening track ‘Judgement Day’ starts with a great pace on an acoustic guitar developing into a repeating riff, reminiscent of a 90’s metal track. The track actually reminds me of Metallica’s old style, if they were much softer and had a studio band sound. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing however as Barry brings life to this style by putting it in a new shiny context. Interesting compositional techniques, such as the tremolo violin parts in the chorus, added subtly here and there create a much more enjoyable listening experience.
The title track ‘This Way Up’ is quite different. I have to be honest and admit that I’ve had a hard time listening to this one again and again as it reminds me of a cheesy Christian anthem. But synthesised keyboards of that type are a personal vex. The whole mix in fact feels a bit forced and never fully grabbed my attention. That being said I quite like the message, albeit clichéd, for its optimistic and triumphant nature. Again Barry’s voice holds the track together and specifically during the interlude: about two minutes in. Here he’s able to show off the strength behind his range while being backed by a slower paced rhythm and more relatable emotive character. If I’m honest I can’t bring myself to say that I liked this track but that’s purely a matter of my distaste for the genre and mix. If I really try to be objective and impartial I can see that it’s very well written and a bit of craic.
‘Falling Moon’, the third track, is very much so a 90s style ballad. It really reminds me of Byran Adam’s ‘Everything thing I do”. That’s definitely not a bad thing but it does feel a bit outdated. I found however love to see this played live as Barry gives it loads. The only thing was I think the piano is a bit too washed in reverb. It was recorded on a 9ft grand piano in Westland studios so it’s fairly needless to say it sounds beautifully rich but there’s a chance that the reverb of the room or Barry’s pedaling wasn’t controlled enough, but this is a minor annoyance really.
The last track is a cover of Jack L’s ‘Georgie Boy’ where Barry’s voice really shines and you can hear its depth very clearly. It’s on this track that I cannot get the resemblance to Eddie Vedder out of my head. A great tune to end on and it wraps up the EP well however I feel that this track puts his compositional talent in context with an amazing song writer’s, exemplifying their subtle differences and regrettably taking away from the previous tracks.
Overall, I’m of two minds about this EP. Parts of it I really like because of its raw sound and rich textures, but other parts I really struggle through because of the dull mix, the honky-tonk piano, the clichéd style and most of all my subjective personal preferences. I thinks it’s definitely worth a listen however and I’m actively going to try to buy tickets to see Barry live. So that’s telling.