Nashville Music Guide

Soulful rock with a groove that keeps your toes tapping and your head bobbing. Tod Hughes reminds me of one of my all time favorite Americana artists Clay McClinton. Their music and style of lyrical interpretation is similar and solid. He is classified in the genre roots rock, Americana.

Hughes released his first EP in May of this year, 2016 and the reviews are hopping. Tod strips everything down to the tips of the roots and shares with his listeners the raw and real life scenarios we experience every day.

His video “Drinking Coffee In A Hipster Place” is wild. It’s all the various faces of our world gathered together in a place to lay back and be yourself. Hipsters in a happy place.

Roots music at it’s best. Top charting talent with this artist is a given. He’s a storyteller, a sage, a word man. He’s a magical bard.

His songs are real from the heart and soul. He writes about truth, life, love, the stuff you want to forget and the stuff you want to remember.

Unique and eclectic in his approach and delivery of such amazing lyrics and melodies. He has opened up a new avenue of interpretation for a sound that has at times been muddied by over playing and over engineering. Not with this artist. He has literally placed his heart on his sleeve and will not disappoint fans and listeners with his artistic ability.

The lyrics are melodious and stick with you for hours which I think is why I went back so many times to listen again.

A native of Canada and probably one of the best up and coming singer/songwriters in his genre, Tod has a way of expressing his love for music in a way that will bring listeners back time and time again. It’s fresh, rocking roots music that takes you on a journey through the songs not just a short burst of “sound” but a journey.

The instrumentation on this CD reflects the years of experience and the ability to stay true to your own style and make your music unique to just you. He has his own technique to making a simple rift make you wake up and pay attention. The balance, and rhythmic originality is powerful and driving. It’s not encumbered by synthetic engineering or dials on a machine. It’s rich, warm, edgy and raw.

Authentic and natural talent exudes and the inspiration he draws on from greats like Neil Young and Bob Dylan are apparent and accepted by people of all ages and musical interest.

His current work has been widely reviewed and has received a huge positive response. Tod believes that the spirit is a magical vessel where the music lives and that it is meant to touch our souls in a natural way for both performer and the listener. I believe he’s right.

Future outlooks for Tod Hughes are astronomical. The sky is the limit with where he can go with his music. His lyrics and songs are expressions of hope and real events in life. His first EP “Changing Gears” reflects a celebration of life and how it is in constant change. His follow up release “Time Slow Down” is just as reflective and strong where he takes a blank canvas and turns it in to a masterpiece.

Tod Hughes is the real deal. His live performances are filled with energy and he has a natural way of bringing the audience in to the song, to his story and that’s what makes him so accomplished. The storyteller extraordinaire.

Vancouver Weekly

Tod Hughes Makes Time Stand Still

AUGUST 2, 2016 by 

Tod Hughes

Drawing inspiration from roots and folk, singer songwriter Tod Hughes has released the follow-up to his debut EP Changing Gears, with the anticipated full-length album Time Slow Down.

The album starts with its title track  “Time Slow Down”, immediately one can’t help but to agreeably nod their head to the upbeat vibe and good-natured lyrics with Hughes’ plea to an unrelenting Father Time.                                                                                                            

With rock and folk music essentially starting from scratch in a lot of ways basic song structure has become increasingly en vogue. On Time Stand Still, Tod Hughes has taken that notion of simplified song structure but did well to fuse multiple instrumental layers courtesy of his Collective; the name bestowed to his band. There is an overall cleanliness to the audio production on Time Stand Still, and while the album does not reinvent a genre, what it does do is shuck the gritty and distortion filled trend that much of the current popular throwback music thrives off of.

Classification of Time Stand Still is interestingly paradoxical. Upon a peripheral listen it is easy to lump the native of Winnipeg in with the folk genre (or subgenre thereof) and call it a day. Incorporating a banjo with several layers of guitars, both acoustic and electric is after all a comfortable enough fit with folk music. However, after multiple spins and a closer listen Hughes has done something subtle in his art; essentially creating music that one swears they have heard before, yet pinpointing exactly where or by whom proves challenging.

Coming out of WW2, Big Band and Swing music began incorporating trumpets and flutes over the newly embraced electric guitar. While one would not easily associate Time Stand Still with the music directly coming out of the 1950’s, Hughes very naturally manages to pull off a similar instrumental cocktail on the album.

Basically categorizing Hughes’ work on Time Stand Still is like hypothetically taking Robert Plant’s “Sea Of Love”, and mashing it with Rosemary Clooney’s “Sway” and Elvis Costello’s “You’ll Never Be A Man”, it’s like a familiar oddity.

On the track “Nothing Too Obscure”, Hughes takes inspiration from fellow countryman Leonard Cohen with his vocal harmony. Wisely Hughes does not try to emulate the Canadian legend, he merely checks in with the harmony while continuing to lend his own clean style of vocals to the production. With inspirations like the aforementioned Cohen as well as Bob Dylan and Neil Young, Hughes draws from his love of down-home storytelling on the album. Often utilizing a theme of underlying optimism lyrically throughout the LP, the singer-songwriter’s underlying stories of hope do well to compliment the tempo and use of upbeat (both musically and thematically) the band plays utilizes on “One Of A Kind” and the album as a whole.

One of the songs generating buzz off the album is “Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place”. Perhaps a bit of tongue in cheek or bitterly ironic, I’ve always found it a trifle strange when a hipster takes aim at hipsters or the hipster movement. Regardless,” Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place” plays a lot like the oft covered tune” Gloria”, written and recorded in 1964 by my ex-employer Van Morrison.

Tod Hughes has the ability to appeal to all age ranges as well as across several (musical) genres, often challenging the human brain’s necessity to categorize. Nevermore so does Time Stand Still make one’s temporal lobe work to file and arrange than on “Coming Home To You”.

A few bars into “Coming Home to You” Hughes introduces a Harry Chapin type harmony, specifically from the 1977 #1 hit “Cats in the Cradle”. As if Hughes fell asleep with the radio on one afternoon only to awake feeling inspired to write a new intro for the song about the father / son relationship. I actually believed that he was covering Chapin’s only song to top the charts. A cover of the song of“Cats in the Cradle” that would seemingly land in the middle of Chapin’s rather soft original and the more aggressive 1993 rendition performed by Ugly Kid Joe (from the album America’s Least Wanted).

Ironically failing to live up to its name, the album’s seventh offering “Worth Waiting For”, proves to be the first and only rather blasé track on the LP; save for the terrific backup vocals by the unaccredited female vocalist.

“Darkness that Cries” marks the eighth track on Time Stand Still, and is another chapter in the continually growing line of hommages tributed to The Man In Black. Almost a rite of passage, Tod Hughes unveils his storyline over a music bed tipping its hat to the song “Sunday Morning Coming Down”. Kris Kristofferson, having written the classic track, has been quoted as saying that Johnny Cash performing “Sunday Morning Coming Down” allowed him to quit working a day job. With his passion it will be interesting to see if “Darkness that Cries” affords Hughes a similar career fate to that of Kristofferson.

Anti Music

Tod Hughes writes and sings (mostly) whimsical folk-ish songs. Time Slow Down features lighthearted songs, driven by Hughes' conversational vocal style. Hughes has a notable ability to sing in a sincere, direct manner, which makes him more of a communicator than a mere performer.

During the love song, "Worth Waiting for," Hughes imagines himself to be Johnny Cash, as he does his best (and honestly, it's not much like The Man in Black) Cash impression. But we forgive him because the song - with its sparkling fiddle accompaniment - is just such a feel-good tune. Hughes taps into our universal hatred for those that are hipper-than-thou during "Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place." He's backed by saucy female vocals, and the track features some nice muted trumpet coloring.

Hughes is based in Calgary, Alberta, where country music is popular, and he has a little fun with country song stereotypes during "Nothing Too Obscure." The song also smartly references The X-Files.

An album title like Time Slow Down suggests songs about life in the fast lane. However, Tod Hughes is by no means speeding down life's highway. Rather, he's a more of a stop and smell the roses kind of guy, and his music is smart, funny and entertaining.

Louder than War

Interview: Tod Hughes


Sounding very similar to “Dire Straits”, storyteller, songwriter Tod  Hughes has very recently released his new album, “Time Slow Down”.

Hailing from Canada, Tod sings about human emotion. Although his stories are deep, his music is toe- tapping, high energy and fun. Louder Than War shared some very inspirational questions and answers with Tod about his music.


Louder Than War: I find your music very refreshing, kind of like a modern Bob Dylan, who are your musical influences?

Thank you very much indeed. That is high praise. I have never tried to sound like anyone in particular, but have been very much influenced on the writing side by the great storytellers of our time.  Poets like Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, storytellers like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson and Neil Young.  I sometimes like music that rocks and other times music that is chill.

What inspires your story telling, your lyrics?

I believe music comes from the soul, and specifically I call my sound “real music from the heart”.  My songs all have a personal connection to my life, be it myself, or someone close to me.  It is something I have lived.  I am not very good at just making stuff up if it didn’t touch me!

Do you plan a tour in the US at any time in support of the album?

Not at this time.  We did a mini tour in Canada in the spring and will do another in the fall.   But if we get support for the album in the US, you bet we will be there!

“Worth Waiting For” reminds me of something Jason Mraz would sing, what was the motivation in writing that particular song?

That’s a question with a bit of a funny answer.  I have a close loving family, wife and kids, but for various reasons, they were all out of town one Father’s Day.  Well, I sat down and started plunking my guitar wondering if anyone was going to call (maybe feeling like a sad sack).  As a song started coming out of it, I thought what the heck even if they don’t call, my wife (who was only out of town for a few days), she is totally worth waiting for!  I am sure they did call though.

How long have you been in the music industry?

I have been writing songs for many years, but only since 2014 have I been recording the songs professionally and performing them in public live.  I don’t consider myself an insider to the music scene or industry, but truly take an indie approach to producing the music and I am always encouraged as we get a great reception every time we play.

What do you enjoy most about performing live?

I love to engage the audience with the groove of a song and to make sure they have fun and that we have fun playing for them.  The band and the audience should feed off of each other. People go out to be entertained, to have a good time.  I respect and appreciate every person who takes the time and spends the money to see us play live, so I want to make sure that we make it a great experience for them.

What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you while performing live?

We were playing at a local pizza pub a few years back with one of the benefits being free beer and pizza, both of which I love.  They have a tiny stage and the small room is always packed which makes for a great sort of basement rec room feel to a show there.  It is so tight that you can’t always see the others on stage so you have to listen for them.  Well when the time came for a slow groove Dire Straits type lead from our lead guitar player, I don’t hear anything.  When I look back to see what the problem is, sure enough the guitar player is there all right, standing with his guitar strapped on and a huge pepperoni pizza in his hands!  When I ask him what the heck is going on, he only states the obvious…I was hungry.

Any new projects on the horizon ?

Well yes, I am busy writing a bunch of new songs and am planning to record a new EP In the near future that will have a completely different feel to it.  Maybe a more contemplative and acoustic sound.

 Any last words?

It would be great if folks want to connect and follow us on and please keep listening to real music and thank you for supporting indie artists.

Where can your fans-to-be find your music?

Hard copies can be ordered through my website at
and downloads and anywhere else music is sold for download.

For more info:

We Do it for the Love of Music

It has been said that “time and tide wait for no man,” but haven’t you ever wished that time could slow down, even if it’s just for a while? Maybe you don’t “wanna” have to wake up just yet, or you just want to savor those precious moments in life, milk them for every second they are worth? Tod Hughes echoes those sentiments in the title track of his new album ‘Time Slow Down.’ The Canadian singer/songwriter makes music that “comes from the spirit inside and is meant to touch the soul of the [listener].]

‘Time Slow Down’ has all that soul-touching crammed into one memorable album. Stand-out tracks include ‘Coming Home to You,’ an energetic piece that will have you on the edge of your seat, ‘One of a Kind’ with its sizzling guitar lines, and definitely ‘Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place’ which takes a cheeky glance at millennials flooding coffee shops with their faces glued to their monitors.

Hughes is also generous with his talent, performing a number of shows where all proceeds go to support those in need. These charities include education in developing countries, micro-finance, and the recent refugee crisis in Syria. If you are one of those that miss the golden era of American Folk, then ‘Time Slow Down’ definitely deserves a place on your playlist.

On Request Magazine

'Time Slow Down' by Tod Hughes Is A Storytelling Masterpiece

July 20, 2016

A heartfelt, emotional experience is the only way to properly describe the incredible sound of Tod Hughes and his most recent album, "Time Slow Down." The folk-rock singer/songwriter has created a unique and original blend of mellow, soul-searching music and story-driven lyrics. Telling tales of love, heartbreak, fear and fun with his sound, Tod Hughes has created a one of a kind record that connects audiences across multiple

Songs such as "One of a Kind" and the titular track "Time Slow Down" are prime examples of the various approaches in tone that this album employs, with the former taking a bit of an edgier tone and the latter taking a more upbeat, relaxed feel to the song. Harkening back to the days of Bob Dylan and John Fogerty, and yet making his music sound like the perfect pairing to a current indie film, this is a record that breaks down
barriers and presents an honest, open story of very real human emotions. An emotional journey that is not to be missed, Tod Hughes "Time Slow Down" is a must listen record that will hopefully launch this Canadian folk-rocker from local legend to worldwide star, whose voice deserves to be heard by any and all. Be sure to pick up your copies of the record today, and follow Tod Hughes at the links down below!!reviews/hf6pj

Daily News Service UK


Tod Hughes debut album Time Slow Down

by Samuel Mensah - Jul 30, 2016

Canadian roots rock songwriter, Tod Hughes, has earned himself a loyal local following due to his bare-it-all, heart on a sleeve storytelling that bleeds into his songwriting. After captivating audiences with intimate and open live performances, Hughes’ debut EP entitled Changing Gearsspoke of change and his own personal metamorphosis.

Now, Hughes is ready to reach out to a wider audience with his first full length release, Time Slow Down, a nine track showing that is released on CD, vinyl and digitally though the Orchard, a Sony company. For the most part this album delivers relatable content that tackles current day-to-day interactions and emotions in as honest a way as you are ever likely to find.

For instance, the first video released from Time Slow Down is entitled Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place. This song is a prime example of the realism Hughes brings to his music as he speaks about how sitting in a coffee shop has now become a social struggle of trying to fit in and look relevant – he doesn’t want to look lost in this world.

Time Slow Down is an upbeat and uplifting LP,  it’s opening title track makes you aware of this from the off, with extremely catchy melodies and a feel good factor that is contagious, despite the premise of the song being about the untrusting speed of time. Hughes is paranoid, like most are, that time is moving too fast, so it is quite telling that this is the headline of the album.

Hughes brings us an enjoyable album through the medium of roots rock as he channels the likes of legendary storytellers Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, JJ Cale, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen, all of which he is clearly inspired by. If you are looking for fun in a bid to put a smile on your face this album will positively surprise you.

The Scene

Tod Hughes – Time Slow Down – Album Review

Owen MaxwellAugust 3, 2016
Time Slow Down CD Cover


There’s a stronger lyrical demand on singer-songwriters, with less grandeur behind the music and tones cleaner the pressure is high. Tod Hughes manages this pressure onTime Slow Down mixing parts country and Sam Roberts to craft an album that while occasionally melodically bland, always has a lyric to crack a smile.

Opener “Time Slow Down” moves on a calm country shuffle before every catchy chorus. It’s the instrumental jams and the breakdown bridge however that really give the track its soul and standout moments. There’s a dark swing to “One Of A Kind” that gives it a deceiving air of mystery, as the track’s repetitive nature gets old fast, it too gains some redemption from a short-lived bridge and instrumental jam that is too little too late.

The lyrical prowess comes out on “Nothing To Obscure” where Hughes looks at how people over-think everything. Although the melodies are mostly straightforward the lyrical content gives the song enough push to keep it going. “Drinking Coffee In A Hipster Place” takes on a smooth pop jazz feel and comments on dealing with being trendy. Over the course of the track the groove becomes more infectious and it becomes less and less clear whether Hughes is using hipster as a slam or self-referential term.

There’s a Sam Roberts tinge to the verses of “Coming Home To You” and then an almost too poppy chorus melody that borders on cheesy in its delivery as the song’s tone doesn’t fully elicit the grandeur that usually goes with such a cliché hook. “Is It Really Fair” is the one track on the album that is mediocre by any means, although there’s an undeniable catchy sound to its choruses. It suffers from a generic guitar line and vocals that don’t add anything emotionally or lyrically.

Although melodically familiar, there’s a charm to “Real You And Me” between the sweet sound of its instruments and lyrics that are too easy to relate to. If one can get through the opening verse about sitting in a chair “Worth Waiting For” is one of the best tracks on the album. Every section works well, the lyrics are playful and instrumentation driving.

Closing on “The Darkness That Cries” the album ends on a sombre note, lyrics reflecting on the mistakes of the past. Sweet violin breaks and a crowd chant end the track on a bittersweet note that elicits some of the strongest emotions of the album.

The Big Sky State Buzz


Calgary-based singer/songwriter's new album has eclectic mix of engaging tracks

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Listening to Tod Hughes’ new album “Time Slow Down,” I at first thought that it sounded too much like dad music for me to really get into.

Dad music, if you’re not familiar with it, to me means music that’s at times a little too vanilla, easy to swallow while not doing much to shock or take a cultural stance.

To be sure there’s nothing wrong with dad music now and then because sometimes I just want to hear some good damn music, not another track that’s trying to change the world.

The more I listened to this album, though, I found myself rather enjoying it due to the high quality of musicianship, and the way Hughes gives nods to his influences, people like Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Neil Young or Leonard Cohen, without ripping them off. Plus it’s just GOOD music, period.

“Time Slow Down” also has a great mixture of songs that differentiate themselves while all feeling like they belong together stylistically.

You also might hear it and think it’s a little too “hipster” for you, or that you might need a man-bun, flannel shirt and glasses without lenses in them to appreciate this, but, I’d argue that there’s more layers to Hughes’ music that go beyond that easy association.

Time Slow Down CD CoverAfter my first listen through the album, I got the “feel” of a off-the-wall coffee shop or restaurant that’s filled to the brink with young people chatting about interesting things that they’ve posted on Instagram recently while the servers dish out homemade grub.

The title track, “Nothing Too Obscure” and “Darkness That Cries” are the songs that stuck out in particular, but there isn’t a bad track to be found here. You can hear the vast musical experience in his instruments and the emotion in Hughes’ voice on most every song.

A Canada native, Hughes calls Calgary home these days. In his online bio he describes himself, saying he’s “a Canadian storyteller, who writes real music that comes from the heart.”

That’s good enough for me. Give “Time Slow Down” a listen. You’ll be glad you did.

Singer-songwriter Tod Hughes, born and raised in Winnipeg, Canada, who now lives with his family in Calgary, Canada, and his bare-it-all storytelling has earned him a local following.  Now with his new LP release, he is aiming to reach a broader audience with his sound.

Hughes shows his chops with his poignant storytelling in his newly released LP, Time Slow Down.  His latest record portrays a poet on the verge of something great, as he plays with his consciousness and inspirations to create a highly upbeat and timeless roots album.  Hughes has spun a record that gives bursts of folk rock intermixed with country lovin’ fun and a bit of honky-tonk and blues.  Prior to his LP release,Time Slow Downemerges from his experiences with his first EP, entitled, Changing Gears, with his latest LP released as a cohesive follow-up to the songs that celebrated life and death in his first EP.  AlthoughTime Slow Downgrapples with the same topics, it seems Hughes has provided room in the album to show the growth and changes that he has gained from making the initial EP.

Open-heartedly, there’s a timeless quality to Hughes’ vocals as he sings with swarthy rigor about summer nights and how time flies in the title and first track, “Time Slow Down,” keeping audiences heads spinning as they try to keep time to the beat that seems to about to escape them. “One of a Kind” requires heavy backing from the instruments with the vocals resonating and like the songs says is, “full of life.” The track has Latin connotations with the bongos moving toward a sunny sound and the twang of guitar keys livening the mood. The strumming backbeat of the string instruments are stirring and it adds this heady and hearty uplifting folk rock and roots sound that is definitely straight from the heart. It is a blistering sound and is best described as a swarthy stew that is a mish-mash of distinct deep earthy flavors that you could tell is made soulfully.

There’s something old-school to “Nothing Too Obscure,” the third track to the dynamic roots rock album.  The similarities to Bob Dylan in these “country songs” offer excitement and a bit of richness that you can’t just get off of any old block.  There is something obscure and yet fun lovin’ in these songs, and in this instance, Hughes takes listeners on a fearless ride that speaks with certainty.

“Drinking Coffee at a Hipster Place” has a contrived and expectant vibe to it already without really going into the sound.  But for the most part, the track has a jazzy open with a heart-warming rock ‘n’ roll and rollicking sound.  The track artfully teases listeners with its upbeatness, that the band backing up Hughes, who goes by the name, Tod Hughes Project, might be getting spent soon, but in reality, the track indeed shows that the band is in no mood of slowing down.

In “Real You and Me” Hughes vocals laments the some of the situations that might happen to certain folks.  His tone is characterized by a mourning sound as he sings about characters who might have fallen on a bit of bad luck and hard times.  “Worth Waiting” comes in with sudden force and with the wailing of violins, depicts the listless, sullen quality of waiting around too long for someone.

Like an earthy stew that someone has put together with some vegetables, beef, and potatoes, Hughes’ latest project is produced through the roots of something that is heavy and hearty.  The mixture is oftentimes tantalizing with veins of truth spiraling throughout the songs.

In a way, Time Slow Down is sort of a live album.  One can only imagine the fun and thrill of seeing Hughes and his local band, Tod Hughes Project, live in concert from listening to the songs.  The album definitely captures the exhilarating sound of a lively band enjoying their time in the limelight as they hit it while the spotlight of the stage is upon them.  From memorable tracks like “Nothing Too Obscure,” whose searing harmonies and lyrics resonate and have a marked quality that specifies them with a unique sound to the weighty strings of violins playing in “Worth Waiting” that becomes more and more insistent that further signifies their sound, there is something driven about Tod Hughes’ project with his latest LP release, Time Slow Down.

Like from the violins in the aforementioned track, there is a dogged quality that comes from Hughes beseeching vocals.  Something that is adamant and nearly clogged with ambition.  With a band that he has formed from local musicians and a strong and loyal following from fans from the local community, Hughes’ debut LP has the signatures of a band striving for something arresting that will be profound enough to establish them in the fore-front with other front-runners in the race to make them a household name.  With such a live and fun sound, it seems like nothing much stands between Tod Hughes and fame. 8.2/10


Tod Hughes: Time Slow Down

tod hughesTod Hughes
Time Slow Down
(Musik and Film)

Buy it at Amazon!

Canadian roots-rock songwriter Tod Hughes has released his new album Time Slow Down. The flicky and fun title track opens with Hughes featuring a strong female backing vocalist in the singable chorus with a fiddle lead; it’s a nice, positive, simple, funky, folk-rock opener. “Nothing to Obscure” is a sweet acoustic tune, with mainly Hughes’ delicate, slightly sad vocals, and sweet fiddle, electric, and drums slowly slipping in behind him as the song opens up in some very solid, lyrical, subtle ways; it’s a wonderful tune. “Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place” is a heavy percussion tune, with fun, slightly wry spoken lyrics, those backing female vocals again, and clean guitar lead slipping around, while a horn beats in the background. It’s wacky, wild stuff to be sure. “Real You and Me” is a nice, quick love song, again featuring the fiddle and backing vocals. One needs to listen a little deeper to Hughes’ lyrics here (as well as every other place on Time Slow Down). His seemingly oft-mined light-hearted sensibility is not all it seems. “Darkness That Cries” ends the album and it is a killer, really. Hughes croaks the lyrics out, talks some of it, strumming slowly before we get the big folk-country, commercial chorus. This is an expansive tune, if not in production, in lyrics and intent, just as on-par with classic country songwriting and delivery. It’s a wonderful end to a very good album indeed.

Tod Hughes' 'Time Slow Down' is thoughtful and smart

MacEagon Voyce - AXS Contributor
By: MacEagon Voyce  AXS Contributor Jul 5, 2016 4 weeks ago
Tod Hughes; ;Time Slow Down; is thoughtful and smart
Tod Hughes

In an era lived at broadband speeds, sometimes it’s nice to slow down—or at least humbly ask Time to take a breather and let us catch up. “Time slow down / wait for me,” singer-songwriter Tod Hughes pleads in thetitle track of his new record, Time Slow Down.

On the record, Hughes is accompanied by his usual suspects, a collective of local folk musicians that perform under the Tod Hughes Project moniker. Hughes believes in making music of the folk, music that “comes from the spirit inside and is meant to touch the soul of the hearer.” And, as is typical of folk musicians, he believes it to be best rendered with real, tangible instruments. As he says in his bio, not without some jocularity, Time Slow Down was made with “real instruments by real people!”

The Calgary native is cut from JJ Cale cloth, boasting a similar relaxed character with similar folk contours. But Hughes’ subtle wit and understated irony, coupled with his folk instrumentations and hand drum percussion, make him even more reminiscent of Paul Simon.

Look no further than the record’s fourth track to find both said wit and said percussion. Muted trumpet, hand drums, doo-wop-like backing singers, and acoustic guitars follow the singers's humorous lyrics in “Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place.” The song is a portrait of millennial-ridden cafés and their plugged-in, “chill” twenty-somethings all absorbed in their screens. In the accompanying video, said millennials join in on the fun, looking up from their monitors long enough to mouth the chorus.

The song is clever and an interesting lens into how the non-millennial generation observes its progeny. And it’s fun imagining the twofold irony of Mr. Hughes stopping by a hipster place to find his reviewer drinking coffee and listening to underground techno music (that is definitely not played by 'real' instruments) in his free time (and yes that is indeed the case in this instance).

Tod Hughes is a good songwriter. His folk is thoughtful and smart, and it celebrates some of the simpler aspects of life that we millennials occasionally forget to appreciate. Time Slow Down may not be Highway 61 Revisited, but it should still find a home with the roots rock fans that miss (or missed) the golden era of American folk: The Dylans, the Simons, the Cales. And even though some of them (RIP JJ) are still around, it never hurts to have another talented songwriter on the scene.


Canadian singer-songwriter Tod Hughes hits the nail on its head in the new video for his tune ‘Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place’. The roots rock storyteller released the album Time Slow Down this past May via The Orchard. The debut album, which is a follow-up to Hughes’ EP Changing Gears, features songs that range from the serious to the comical.

Hughes works with other musicians on his songs and refers to this collective as the Tod Hughes Project. He’s a fixture of the local Calgary music scene and enjoys performing, especially to help various charities. On the gently lively ‘Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place’, Hughes sing-talks his amusing lyrics in an engaging style among the sharp bleats of horns, fast-shaken percussion, hand drum hits, and lightly picked acoustic guitar. Backed sporadically by upbeat female vocals, Hughes professes that he’s drinking coffee in a hipster place and that, “The biggest risk here is being lost and dull.”

The video for the song is a pointed poke at, and also a loving ode to, the hipster crowd at a coffee shop. The smattering of customers (mostly tattooed, it seems) all have their eyes glued to their smartphones and Apple laptops, nodding to the rhythm of the song, while the crazily-named coffees listing is a mile long. Near the end of the video some performance footage is cut in, showcasing Hughes and his live ban



Tod HughesScallywag Magazine

Roots Rock has another star player on the team. With the talented Tod Hughes from Calgary, Alberta releasing his inspired and honest new album Time Slow Down, many listeners are going to put this well-produced and quirky album on repeat. Mixed with a beautifully clean sound, it is interesting to see that the gritty-live-pub-band sound still remains intact.

Opening with the title track “Time Slow Down,” Tod Hughes wastes no time introducing his particular signature sound to his new and fast-growing audience. The track has a serious message about the passage of time, but, rather than hanging out in the ocean of melancholy, “Time Slow Down” steps up the beat and creates a fun experience; it is a beautiful juxtaposition of sound.

As far as song titles go, “Drinking Coffee In A Hipster Place” has to win some sort of award. Just the title alone is music to my ears because there is no denying the passion in which modern day hipsters have overtaken most coffee shops; this song clearly aims at layering on the sarcasm and silliness in all of it. The track is easy enough on the ears with clean drums, smooth vocals, hand drums, and some beautiful female back-up vocals. In fact, this song is exactly what you would expect to hear in a hipster coffee shop.

The final track, entitled “Is It Really Fair,” is a proper send-off for an album that stayed well within its own genre box. Sounding like a cross between John Fogerty and Wilco, “Is It Really Fair” will no doubt become a favorite track among the many on this filled-out album.

Time Slow Downis not not a perfect album. It lacks some diversity between songs, and it stays a bit too safe within its own particular sound and genre, but it also shines as a great body of work. The songs are always a cross between the serious topic and the fun-loving musical composition, and, for that, this album deserves some real credit. The real strength of this album lies in its ability to make you want to see this band live as soon as you can.

Tod Hughes can be found on Facebook and his official site.

The Big Takeover

Tod Hughes - Time Slow Down (Self-Released)

24 May 2016

Calgary, Alberta’s Tod Hughes is a singer/songwriter whose warm and rustic songs go down like a wholesome slice of apple pie. Influenced by the likes of Neil YoungBob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen; Hughes’s new album Time Slow Down is a follow up to his debut EP. Changing Gearsand follows much in the same direction but with a fuller and more realized production. Perhaps a concept album in the loosest sense of the term, all of the songs, for the most part, deal with the larger theme of hope, whether approached from a perspective of naive innocence or weathered experience.

Some songs like “Drinking Coffee In a Hipster Place” are fun and gleefully playful with a childlike spirit akin to Jonathan Richman, whereas others such as “Darkness that Cries” are more carefully introspective and with a spirit measurably toned down. Yet, for the most part, a celebratory love of music pervades the proceedings, aided in part by a group of local musicians clearly as invigorated by the project as Hughes is. Time Slow Down, released May 8th, is a record with artistic and thematically diverse depths that only reveal themselves further upon repeated listens, and it is also a record that will never fail to reward the listener or put a smile on their face.

No Depression


Tod Hughes Brings the Delightful "Time Slow Down"

Tod Hughes brings to life an impressive release with Time Slow Down. Hailing from Canada, the Roots-Rock songwriter shows off his songwriting and storytelling skills, which are captured within every listen.  Taking a page out of the books of artists such as the Grateful Dead, Wilco and Townes Van Zandt, Hughes brings a heartfel record to the table, touching upon subjects such as love, pain, happiness and fear, as he shows off different sides of the human emotion.

Hughes' spirited music comes to life in songs such as the vibrant and relatable "Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place," and the vibrant, yet touching, acoustic feel of "One of a Kind." Hughes vocals shines through each track on the album with a pure and heartfelt sound, as each melody and every note is brouht to life with the touch and feel of a kindred soul. 

Catchy melodies are also intertwined throughout the album as Hughes seemingly pens a song for every mood. His impeccable craftsmanship brings memorable verses and choruses that shows his growth as a musician and songwriter, as this is the follow up to Changing Gears, his prior EP. Showing off how he has honed his skills, we hear a more mature side of Hughes, that is fine-tailored for the masses.

From start to finish Hughes makes an accessible record of stunning songs that will lure you in everytime...forever.

Tod Hughes on Facebook:


Tod Hughes – Time Slow Down LP

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Genre: Singer-songwriter, Folk, Roots Rock.
Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
For fans of: Dire Straits, John Fogerty, Grateful Dead

Tod Hughes has released his new 9-track LP, Time Slow Down, a solid work of folk music art filled with meaningful songs that warm the heart. Similar to artists like John Fogerty, with the potential to bring us what Jerry Garcia of Grateful Dead gave us vocally, Tod has a very structured sound and every track is worth each second you spend strolling down its musical pathways. Nothing about Time Slow Down says mainstream radio, but with artists like Tod you can’t expect to get a chart-topping pop record.  Hes a crafty writer who paints pictures on the walls of your mind that seem like real events. I love this kind of writing and if you’re anything like me, you’ll appreciate what you hear.

As you dive into Tod Hughes’ music on this LP, you’ll discover that each song offers something you can relate to. The project’s title track, “Time Slow Down,” is my favorite song because it speaks to how I feel sometimes with how fast the days go by.  I’m always telling time to slow down and wait for me, just as Hughes demands in this particular song.  Great folk songwriters have a knack for keeping you in a relaxed and upbeat mood, while still making you anxious to hear where they’re taking you in the story.  Also, the music is fun and put me in the mood for a square dance. This is a must hear song.


The rest of the LP compliments the title track well, making for a strong new release by Tod Hughes; songs like “Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place” (video below), “Nothing Too Obscure”, and “Worth Waiting For”. Thankfully, there are no uncouth spins that throw the project off, like an experimental song in some genre that doesn’t even match the rest of the songs. The only thing you’ll find is Tod being consistent with his sound and moods, which helps to make this a highly enjoyable release for me. I can confidently say that I’d recommend Time Slow Down to anyone with an affinity for roots, folk music that is both fun and creative.


Monobloque Music

monoblogue music: “Time Slow Down” by Tod Hughes


Tod Hughes - Time Slow DownIt’s been a bit of a drought for my review series, so it was nice to come back and do something that was original in the sense that it employed harmonies successfully, for the most part.

Tod Hughes is a musician from Calgary, Alberta, who claims to write “Real Music from the Heart!” I certainly can’t argue with the point, although there were a few points in the collection where the execution could have been improved. But the harmonies are the story on this album, beginning with the title track that sets the tone for the remainder. A similar track to Time Slow Down comes later in the album, as Real You And Me runs in the same vein. Worth Waiting For has that same nice female harmony with a more country-western sound – and by that I mean the classic stuff, not the homogenized rock with country instruments that plays on most country stations these days. Roots rock has some of the same influences, and it’s funny that Hughes mentions Johnny Cash in the song since Cash was considered to be rock-and-roll back in the day.

The ballad Darkness that Cries and finale Is It Really Fair also have that nice blend of voices, with the latter song being the most active and political of the nine songs on the set. Hughes points out that he does a number of shows “for the direct benefit of charity, where all proceeds go to support those in need. These charities have included education in developing countries, micro-finance and the recent refugee crisis in Syria.” Obviously that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but musicians tend to be generous with their talent.

Other songs on the CD have their moments as well. One of a Kind has a unique rhythm to it, building to a crescendo that Hughes doesn’t quite have the voice for. Hughes shows his humorous side on the country-tinged Nothing Too Obscure as well as this track he made a video for, Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place.


The video actually makes the track seem better, which is good. But the song I enjoyed the most was the middle song of the nine-song collection, the ode to the road Coming Home To You. It has a great bridge in the middle, but it did the best at evoking the optimistic mood of coming home - even if he did try and perhaps unnecessarily sing in a higher key toward the end.

Overall, this is not a bad vehicle to drive Tod’s career, establishing him further as a good regional artist. Apparently this album is getting a little bit of international play, though, so if you like that mix that occurs at the intersection between classic country and old-style rock that stresses all the instruments, not just bass and drums, you may get enjoyment from this too. As I often say: don’t just take my word for it, listen for yourself. “Time Slow Down” came out May 8 and even can be had in the old-school vinyl.

Skope Magazine

Tod Hughes – “Time Slow Down”


Sung straight from the heart, Tod Hughes recalls past singer songwriter storytellers like Bob Dylan and Neil Young with “Time Slow Down”. His attention to detail is exquisite in terms of the impeccable arrangements and the poetic lyricism. Throughout it all Tod Hughes sensitive voice and keen observation helps to give these songs great power. Emotionally Tod Hughes runs the gamut from the reflective to the playful, each approach yielding great fruit.

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With a slight tinge of nostalgia is the album opener and title track. Tod Hughes lets the small flourishes add up from the punctuation courtesy of the wonderful strings. A more rollicking sound defines the passionate “One of a Kind”. Presenting a great kind of build-up is the sweetness of “Nothing Too Obscure” where Tod Hughes looks back into what all those random moments with pop culture truly mean, from playing records backwards to remembering canceled cult classics. Great humor comes from the sly groove of “Drinking Coffee In a Hipster Place” as Tod Hughes offers a light jab on hipster culture. Romantic to its very core is the tender work of “Coming Home To You”. Easy-going with an airy arrangement is the sunny “Real You And Me”. Bringing the album to a satisfying conclusion is the low-key “Darkness that Cries” with its elegant arrangement effortlessly adding to the power of the lyrics.

Watch the video for “Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place” here:

Tod Hughes creates a timeless masterpiece with “Time Slow Down” with a sound that touches the soul.

Posted by Beach Sloth

Scallywag Magazine

By Lisa Waugh
Tod Hughes pours himself into his music, telling it like it is to a memorable melody. His latest record Time Slow Down is filled with life lessons and musings that bounce along with vibrant energy.

Hughes’s approach to making music is about providing a good time for the audience and for the musicians. The members of his band, The Tod Hughes Project, are encouraged to interpret the music from their own perspectives with Hughes’s light spirit at the helm.

Time Slow Down has elements of indie country, jazzy backdrops, roots, rock, and singer-songwriter clarity. He looks back and forward with the same zeal. Mistakes were made, fun was had, stories were created, and here they are. Tod Hughes is serious about these life lessons. He’s also funny.

Hughes’s voice at times sounds like John Prine’s, especially on the track “Darkness That Cries.”He is reminiscent of Randy Newman on “Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place” with maybe a little Fred Schneider from the B-52s thrown in as he comically laments about the good old days of gas station coffee you can chew. On the “Time Slow Down,” Hughes creates a love song of sorts to Canada, possibly specifically his native Winnipeg and his adopted Calgary. Whomever it’s mean for, it’ll stay in your head.

Lovingly skirmishing with the world, Tod Hughes is clearly have a good time. And we’re having one with him.

Production: Arch Audio, Lorrie Matheson, Calgary, Alberta

“Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place”



Time Slow Down
One of a Kind
Nothing Too Obscure
Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place
Coming Home to You
Real You and Me
Worth Waiting For
Darkness That Cries
Is It Really Fair

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Tod Hughes “Time Slow Down” CD Review

Tod Hughes

The titular effort on Time Slow Down has a hopeful demeanor, drawing heavily upon the folk style of the middle part of the twentieth century. Smart instrumentation keeps on time as Hughes is able to weave a rich narrative. One of a Kind has an intense, sizzling guitar line that works masterfully with the splashy percussion and Neil Young-infused vocals.

Nothing Too Obscure slows things down; Tod immediately draws listeners in with a close and cozy vocal-heavy opening. A walking bass line represents the perfect accompaniment to these vocals. As the effort continues to spin, hints of Creedence Clearwater Revival and James Taylor can be discerned. Drinking Coffee In a Hipster Place includes a horn that provides further variety to the composition. This means that fans will be treated to hints of blues, jazz, and even psychedelic music before the track concludes.

Coming Home To You keeps the energy of Time Slow Down high as fans move into the second half of the album. Particularly intricate in the dynamic between the guitars and drums, the bit of 1970s/1980s-rock (The Police, Dire Straits, The Clash) included here will have listeners on the edges of their seats as they move into Real You And Me. Re-centering the effort into the fertile roots background that began the album, Hughes is able to make an effort here that remains with one long after the CD has ceased to play.

Darkness That Cries, the final track on Time Slow Down, utilizes a slower tempo and an accompanying set of vocals for great effect. This concluding effort puts an emphatic end onto a solid release.

Top Tracks: Drinking Coffee In a Hipster Place, Coming Home To You

Rating: 8.3/10
Tod Hughes “Time Slow Down” CD Review / 2016 Self / 9 Tracks / /

Mid Tennessee Music

Tod Hughes Delivers One Of A Kind Heart and Soul

Tod Hughes-Time Slow Down

Tod Hughes new album Time Slow Down is the most refreshing roots rock record I’ve heard this year. Within seconds of clicking play I was hooked and you best believe that thing is getting repeated…again and again.

A Canadian storyteller, Tod Hughes pours his unique brand of pure heart and soul into every song he writes. One is left to ponder how his cup never empties.

Tod was born and raised in the musical hot bed of Winnipeg, Canada and lives with his family in Calgary, Canada.  Tod is active in the local music scene, business and charity in the community.  Many of Tod’s concerts put on are for the direct benefit of charity, where all proceeds go to support those in need.  These charities have included education in developing countries, micro-finance and the recent refugee crisis in Syria.


Imagine John Prine in a jam session with Randy Newman when Wilco shows up and suggests “Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place” might lead to a brainstorming session whence the trio decides taking their favorite elements of The Grateful Dead and blending them with stylistic nuances of Dire Straits would create, not only an inspirational record, but one guaranteed to rock and move your soul into action.

The pristine storytelling and unique creative energy of Tod Hughes is the icing on this musical layer cake.

Stream, heart and repost Time Slow Down on Soundcloud. Once you share the album with all your friends, connect with Tod on Twitter or FB.

Time Slow Down features the local musicians in Tod’s band, called the Tod Hughes Project.  Tod likes to say it is more a collective than a band, with each skilled musician bringing their own talent and interpretation to the songs which Tod has written and sings.

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Evan Morgan
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A dose of nostalgia on new album from the Canadian Singer/Songwriter Tod Hughes.

Tod Hughes performing live (used with permission)
Tod Hughes performing live (used with permission)

Roots, nostalgia, and a trip down memory lane

Singer/Songwriter Tod Hughes has a very bare bones approach to hissongwriting, song structure, and overall appeal. The Canadian artist is a true storyteller of old, as his music evokes a feeling of stepping through time into a bygone era, inducing a level of nostalgia on his latest record "Time Slow Down" that not only gives the illusion of slowing down time itself, but stepping back into it.

As the opening and title track of the record, "Time Slow Down" is a very traditional opening number, with bouncy instrumentation that truly harkens back to times of old. Overall, it's a feel-good number that reminds us all to take a moment and soak life up, to take a moment out of our busy schedules to stop and smell the roses, as it were. It's possible that this style of music may not appeal to some modern listeners, however, for those that appreciate smooth, relaxed delivery, with a positive message and a truly old style, this opening number will surely pique your interest for the entire record.

"One of a Kind" is a more up-tempo offering that would be right at home in any dive bar or small, intimate venue. Bluesy licks, walking bass, and driving drums push the track forth as it still has that same, laid back delivery of the opener that gives off the feeling of just jamming in your backyard or living room. There's an ease to the music that's very inviting for the listener, and that ease also lends to the sense of accessibility that this roots music inspires -- a kind of blue collar approach that allows listeners to cut through the red tape and get right to the heart of the matter.

Overall, Singer/Songwriter Tod Hughes has put together a body of work on this album that certainly stays true to its niche of roots and Americana that will surely appeal to those that like that style. Overall a solid effort, through and through. In a similar vein as many of the great storytellers such as Johnny CashBob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen, Hughes offers a modern take on a classic sound.

Liberty Post

One storyteller from Canada, Calgary to be specific, has opened his heart and composed around its contents. Folk singer Tod Hughes, has released his newest album, Time Slow Down on May 8, 2016. Does the nine track album carry the weight of history or get lost in time?

Time Slow Down is not mainstream radio station music, these roots remain deep in music that does not often appeal to the masses. Luckily appealing to the masses is not what Tod Hughes is after, he is more concerned with music that comes from the heart. The most likely place to hear this music would probably be at an open mic or maybe a small bar. Tod Hughes pulls together a group and a sound that remains close to its roots, folk and Americana genres are heavily felt here. A few songs switch tempo and mix it up a little, but each track sticks close to the heart of any singer songwriter like Bob Dylan and John Fogerty.

“Search for hidden meaning when there is none to be found.”

To date, Time Slow Down has one track that has been converted into a music video, that song would be“Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place” (video below). This track might be considered a high point of the album to some due to the feel good beat that so effortlessly keeps going, but the lyrics seem a little droll. The extra bits of detail across the album shine through much stronger than than dull parts though, such as the female vocals on the track “You and Me” as well as the percussion that replaces the drums on “One of a Kind.”


Hughes has a lot of strength in his musical presence, his voice sings full even when it sounds a little raspy. It never sounds like Hughes is in the wrong place at the wrong time, in fact, he plays the role of spotlight quite well, but even with the help of a full band Time Slow Down fails to really impress. The sound quality, the instrument choice, it is all good, Tod Hughes has experience and proves that he is no slouch, proves that rock can live if you feed it life, yet the album feels like it is missing its climax. The variety in tempo seen across the album show skills but it does not leave the listener with a sense of fullness, while this might be the fault of the short track list, it still needs to be said that Tod Hughes has the potential to put together an even stronger album with his next release.

“I used to feel like I owned this town.”

Even with the idea of spending time (slowed down) in the present and reflecting, most of the songs on Time Slow Down are more uptempo than not. This is not so much bad or good, but important for understanding Hughes’ intentions. Every note, every word feels authentic, for a soulful experience give Time Slow Down a listen.

Music Review: Tod Hughes – ‘Time Slow Down’

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Tod Hughes 'Time Slow Down'Calgary, Alberta-based Tod Hughes’ latest effort is the nine-track Time Slow Down, a quirky collection of numbers that balance out important and sometimes heavy topics in a melodically light way. There is something so raw and authentic about it that one can’t help but feel Hughes is a friend by the end of the final tune. And not just any friend – the one whose realistic optimism you want to bottle up and sniff all the time to help you face the darkest of days.

Released early last month, a strong thread of hope is weaved through stories centered on typical life experiences such as love, hurt, happiness, fear, disappointment, and just plain fun. The songs range from a little dark at times to tongue-in-cheek humorous. I feel that this album is particularly powerful because it reflects Hughes’ attitude towards his community, both local and international. The artist is active not only in the local music scene, but also in its business and charity scenes. Furthermore, many of his concerts are organised solely to benefit charity, with proceeds going to such causes as education in developing countries, micro-finance, and the recent refugee crisis in Syria.

This realistic optimism can be felt throughout the set. A certain quirkiness influences all of the songs which all fit a signature that becomes quite familiar by the end of the record’s run. Strings and drums of all sorts drive the various melodies; the vocals remain within a middle range; the melodies themselves remain easily digestible, and the musicianship is solid. There is a horn here, a violin there, and vocal harmonies occur, with small and almost infinitesimal twists that don’t change the nature of the songs.

The upbeat “Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place”, for example, has a unique tongue-in-cheek silliness to it and features horns; it also is unique in that Hughes doesn’t attack hipsters or their coffee shops – he just takes notes of how he feels when he visits such places. “Is It Really Fair?” is different in its slight rock feel, implied by how the drums and the guitar take the lead and how the vocals take on a certain harshness as Hughes encourages listeners to think about overcoming injustice rather than be crushed by it.

Other noticeable little touches include the subtle female vocal harmonies in the love story that is “Real You and Me”—where youthful cheekiness and joy abound—and the delicate violin playing on “Worth Waiting For”.

Some might consider this making the album homogeneous, but others might insist that it is conducive to the creation of a safe zone of sorts in which anything can be discussed. This would fit the feeling one gets that each song seems almost like a journal entry on something Hughes noticed during the course of the day or a deep thought he had, which makes them quite approachable.

All these topics are relatively serious in one way or another and yet remain built on sounds that have fun, upbeat, or sunny twists to some or all of them. “Time Slow Down”, for example, could have been such a melancholic track about good times that have passed, but instead it is an uptempo, cheerful song that calls for people to slow things down in the future so that they don’t continue missing out on things. If Hughes was young, one could think that youthful innocence is what makes his work so delightfully optimistic. But he has a good amount of experience that makes these songs’ optimism all the more inspiring: It is there despite whatever might have happened.

Other noteworthy moments include the almost danceable “One of a Kind”, where the vocals are delivered in a way that imply intimacy, wrapping the person being sung about in an extra layer of mystery; the very folksy, even for such an album, “Nothing Too Obscure”, a cozy and intimate number that makes nothing seem too dark to deal with with optimism; and the toe-tapping and cutely romantic “Coming Home to You”.

Closing the album is the apt “Darkness That Cries”, a toned down number that is a little haunting because of the female harmonies. It comes as a soulful acknowledgment of sorts that life is dark at times but that there is always space for optimism. Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud. More information is available on his official website. Say hi to him on Twitter.

Pictures provided by Independent Music Promotions.


Tod Hughes

Time Slow Down


In the course of my day, I hear every style of music you could imagine. Singer-songwriters to death metal and everything in between. Some days, the amount of narcissism is staggering. I suppose it's the curse of the music industry being inundated by the young. Today, after going through a deluge of offerings from dramatic prima donnas, I was lucky enough to stumble on the comforting, humble tunes of Tod Hughes. There was a time when I would never give a second listen to bluegrass but ever since bands like Old Crow Medicine Show and The Devil Makes Three have crossed over to the alternative crowd, I've started to take note. Hughes latest album, Time Slow Down is broader than a pure bluegrass record. It plays out more like a post '60s Dylan album, straddling the line between rock and roots. 

The opener and title track 'Time Slow Down' caught me right away and I found myself listening on repeat as it seemed to cleanse my soul. Shuffling acoustic guitars and banjo welcome you in immediately. Verses reflect calmly on things come and gone while the chorus asks time to “slow down and wait for me”. Beautiful two-part harmonies with an angel-voiced woman make this song irresistible.

The record continues jumping back and forth between swinging urban rock numbers in the style of Dire Straits and homespun prairie tunes. 'One of a Kind' and 'Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place' tell of adventures in the city while a song like 'Nothing too Obscure' feels like a good ol' sing along out on the porch at the ranch. The song looks down the road for answers but doesn't get lost in existentialism trying to find them. 

The aforementioned 'Drinking Coffee in a Hipster Place' sports the slick muted trumpet you very well might find meekly murmuring out of tiny speakers at one of these joints. Cute lady vocals pop in and out to further back up the parody. Hughes would rather have “gas station coffee you have to chew”.

Tod Hughes style could be divisive in the same way that Bob Dylan's vocals either repulse or enchant. They aren't always evenly timed and the melodies like to intentionally drift to off-key notes but fans of Dylan or Neil Young will love its authenticity. Hughes has a pair of dates coming up at the Calgary Stampede where I'm sure he'll be warmly received. Sometimes it's good to take a break from the bright lights of the big city and go sit out under the big sky country and let your mind open up in the wind.

art and culture maven


• Buy the Album

Time Slow Down is the first full-length release from indie artist Tod Hughes. It's an upbeat collection of songs from a veteran of Calgary's music circuit.

Time Slow Down, the title track, is a rollicking song with a roots country energy. Tod has a storyteller's sensibility and the song features back up singers for a good vocal mix that matches the sunny vibe of the tune.

One of a Kind turns to a groovier rock mode with a melodic hook. The music has a nice sense of momentum that swings through various genres from country to roots to guitar rock, with a little fiddle thrown into the mix just for fun.

In the morning light
we smile at each other in a knowing way
there was magic in the attic by the light of the moon

but I'm feeling insecure now
do I go or stay
where do we go from here now...?

Each song is a story, a scenario, from the working man in the infectious rocker Coming Home To You to the Dylanesque Real You And Me, with its rootsy swing and lyrics to match.

Nothing Too Obscure veers between pop, folk and - as the lyrics themselves say - a wanna be country song. It's the musical terrain occupied by most of this release. Drinking Coffee In a Hipster Place is the notable excpetion, featuring a jazzy trumpet line and beat-esque delivery in his raspy voice.

A native of Winnipeg, Tod is active in Calgary's live music scene and often lends his talents to supporting various charities, including helping to raise funds for education in developing countries, micro-finance and the recent refugee crisis in Syria.

Time Slow Down follows his EP, Changing Gears, and is available on CD, vinyl or MP3 download.

Indie Music Reviews

Tod Hughes Project

Changing Gears

This Canadian outfit, helmed by the singer/songwriter of the same name, has released a debut EP, Changin’ Gears, aimed squarely at the “roots music” audience, particularly those who admire retro country music. It’s fair to describe five of the album’s six songs as rockabilly or country music pastiches, but they never spoof the form. Instead, the backing band gives Changin’ Gears an immediate access point for listeners. People coming to this album expecting to find charming, entertaining songs about real life joys and struggles will be pleased. Anyone hoping for more will be disappointed.  

You have to accept these tunes on their own terms. “Let’s Dance” is exactly what it purports to be and nothing else – an uncluttered plea to cherish our chances for happiness as life presents them. The guitars crackle with fiery energy that adds a lot of the track. “Follow Your Heart” takes an unwanted turn into the over familiar, but Hughes and the band turn in an honest effort and the former, particularly, helps overcome some of the song’s deficiencies with another good vocal. “Brad’s Song” has great pacing and outstanding production values, but it feels under-utilized. Many listeners might find themselves waiting for crescendos that never arrive while still being entertained by another facet of Hughes’ songwriting talent. 

“Just Sing” is an endearing love song of a different sort. Instead of fixing on some lady, Hughes reserves his adulation for the chance to express himself through music. There’s ample playfulness and humility here and appealing melodic qualities that help make it memorable. The ironically titled “The Quiet” provides the EP with a sharp rock and roll jolt augmented with nasty flairs of guitar and keyboard. The EP’s final song, arguably its highest point, comes with “The Only Person Who Won’t Drink with Me Is You”, a darkly funny blast of quasi-rockabilly that features Hughes’ best writing on the release. 

Come to Changin’ Gears with an open mind and you’ll be rewarded with a familiar, but entertaining, experience. The songwriting isn’t flawless and often falls into form when it should surprise the listeners, but belaboring those points about a new EP like this are pointless. In the context of achieving what it aims for, Changin’ Gears is a success.  

7/10 Stars

Vents Magazine

Tod Hughes Project

Changing Gears

It’s easy to root for someone who means so well. Tod Hughes clearly wants to entertain his listeners, primarily, and if he can illuminate life a little, all the better. The song and dance man isn’t dead. His press materials unashamedly position him as an enormous admirer of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash and Changin’ Gears’ six songs make some effort to straddle the line between writer and performer. The fact that he errs more to the entertainer side isn’t a slight. It means that, at least on Changin’ Gears, Hughes has chosen a path and followers should judge the result in the right context. There is a higher intelligence presiding over these songs, but it informs the artistry; it’s the hand behind the curtain. Everything else aspires to pure pop bliss.

It should be apparent from the first song. “Let’s Dance” has a clear message of losing yourself in a moment of love and finding joy in that cocooned instant. It’s a timeless subject, but there’s never any sense Hughes sees it as played out. It’s an interesting experiment in what happens when you just pretend something isn’t clichéd. He sings with such twitchy, genuine vulnerability that you want to nod and trust everything he says. Or, as another old phrase goes – if it isn’t true, it oughta be.

“Follow Your Heart” takes a similar approach. The song title is lifted straight from Pop Songwriting 101, but if its familiarity fires any self-consciousness in Hughes, it never shows. Hughes gives listeners a better vocal than the opener and the gentle scolding in the lyric finds a perfect vehicle in his voice. “Brad’s Song” strikes me as a character-driven piece and, if the assumption is correct, succeeds so well because, in part, of its skill in delivering a convincing character in such a condensed space. The music never resorts to theatrics, but instead creates enormous atmosphere. It’s the EP’s first foray into a strictly singer/songwriter realm, but it finds compelling middle ground with the follow-up “Just Sing”. Hughes finds commercial and artistic “balance” here thanks, in part, to specific details often lacking in other lyrics and the music’s melodic grace. There’s a generous helping of predictably here that he counteracts with an earnest vocal.

The slinking wah-wah and bubbling organ of “The Quiet” adds a new wrinkle to any opinion listeners have formed by this point. It’s doubly impressive how little, if anything, about the previous vocals offered evidence of Hughes’ ability to sing a straight rock song. While this isn’t a rampaging, kick out the windows stomper, it has no antecedents on Changin’ Gears and Hughes commits to it entirely. “The Only Person Who Won’t Drink with Me Is You” strides past like a classic rock and roll rave up pushed by persistent drumming, but the biggest moment comes from Hughes’ smirking delivery.

Taken as they are, the six songs on Changin’ Gears are aimed toward mainstream acceptance and turn their talents towards elaborating on classic themes. Love, heartbreak, and self-realization set to a traditional country backing of straight-ahead drumming and steel guitars are a well-tested vehicle for serious songwriting, but there’s a refreshing amount of humor throughout the album. The EP’s songwriting isn’t uniformly strong, but its weaknesses never drag the whole album down.


Tod Hughes Project

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Tod Hughes’ website describes his music as real songs coming from the heart and full of the joy, wonderment, excitement, and disappointments we experience in our lives. These aren’t modest aims and are often misunderstood. Real songs coming from the heart means rendering life as it is rather than as we’d like it. The songs on his debut EP Changin’ Gears represent an attempt to distill life down to its essence, capturing experiences in song capable of simultaneously moving and entertaining his audience, but life is messier and refuses to yield. The drama of our lives is outsized and Hughes hems himself onto a canvas too small to fit such moments and thoughts. While one might say with some justice that life is full of clichés, their abundance on the EP weakens an otherwise memorable debut.

“Let’s Dance” strives for simplicity and ends up sounding canned. The players certainly hit their marks and anyone starved for the sharp twang of traditional country music guitar will enjoy the track. Hughes’ earnest vocal isn’t an entirely comfortable fit for the lyric. He doesn’t emote so much as inflect and there’s rigidity in his voice sharply contrasting with the song’s tone. The lyric is coherent but marred by an assortment of clichés. “Follow Your Heart” has a jaunty bounce, but we’re trafficking heavy in clichés again. Hughes, however, redeems much of the damage with a much more compelling vocal that uses his singing limitations in a way that personalizes the familiar.

“Brad’s Song” brings listeners a moment when Hughes pushes past his influences, avowed or otherwise, and creates something truly his own. The urgent music and nagging vocal complement each other and dovetail into an unified whole – this is inventive lyric writing framed with sure musical hands. Hughes gives us a decent John Prine impression with his vocal on “Just Sing”, but any similarities can’t undermine the fine job of writing he turns in on this track. While it admittedly takes a turn through some stock celebratory images about expressing yourself, the chiseled language and precise diction are impressive.

Changin’ Gears takes a surprising turn with “The Quiet”. This keyboard laced and even funked up mid-tempo burn has a distinctly darker air than its predecessors do and Hughes gives it a sneering vocal. The final song, “The Only Person Who Won’t Drink with Me Is You”, saves Hughes’ best shot for last. Much like “Brad’s Song”, the song blasts beyond its formulaic backing and impresses itself on listeners as something uniquely Tod Hughes. The darkness in the song goes far beyond anything else heard on the album, but Hughes tempers it with a great comedic deadpan vocal.

Changin’ Gears has two moments of pure inspiration surrounded by tracks with varying success. The release has uneven quality, but never so lopsided that it’s a chore listening to it. The aforementioned moments of inspiration aren’t enough to make the release essential, but they certainly serve notice of Tod Hughes’ songwriting skills.

3.5/5 Stars

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Jason Hillenburg

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th2Album Reviews

The Tod Hughes Project – Changin’ Gears


The Tod Hughes Project – Changin’ Gears

While country music continues a contentious, but profitable, transformation from backwater musical genre into a cultural force openly courted in the mainstream, it’s easy to forget artists like Tod Hughes in the shuffle. This isn’t strictly country, but it certainly owes much of its sensibility to the genre and one of the best songs on his new EP has a title like an outtake from a Johnny Paycheck album. Blues-fueled guitar heroics and Nashville twang collide here, but Changin’ Gears benefits from its light rock vibe too. The release’s musical foundation, however, isn’t far removed from what you might find in a honkytonk on a weekend night.

Nowhere is this clearer than on “Let’s Dance”. The exultant and life-affirming energy sparking off the track gives much needed impetus to a lyric contenting itself with superficialities. The guitar work, in particular, lunges from the mix like a knife. The lack of any urgency at all dooms “Follow Your Heart” from its first note. Despite the singer’s pleading about the importance of following your dreams, the music never conveys the same message. It contents itself with a relaxed mid-tempo attack that never reaches for much.

“Brad’s Song” suffers a similar fate. It’s disheartening to hear the inklings of depth in the lyric whitewashed by lax musical backing. Unfortunately, Hughes’ voice misses any opportunity to shore up the lack with an unfocused performance. “Just Sing” succeeds thanks to its stripped back elegance. Every facet of the performance moves within the confines of good taste; notice the melodic simplicity that helps weave great mood and atmosphere. “The Quiet” pushes far beyond the six string pyrotechnics in the opening track and gives Changin’ Gears a shot of pure rock and roll. Introducing new elements like wah-wah and organ move this far away from the other tracks and shows Hughes’ surprising diversity.

“The Only Person Who Won’t Drink with Me Is You”, titled as if a subconscious tribute to Johnny Paycheck, has every bit of the saucy and faintly fatalistic humor common in country music. The biggest factor in its success, however, is Hughes’ best vocal of the album that alternates between a sneer and a chuckle.

Changin’ Gears takes six songs to show significant variation and it’s a troubling fact. Hughes won’t be able to sustain a career on offbeat humor alone; eventually, the songwriting must carry water for his wit rather than the other way around. However, there’s ample evidence here to suggest Hughes is capable of such development.


7 out of 10 stars

Dale Butcher


Tod Hughes Project

Changing Gears


The sound of someone coasting musically is pleasant. The vocals never rage and rail, but maintain a warm and inviting tenor. The drums thud at the edge of thunder, but never quite rattle your ears. The guitars squeal and wail, but never piece deeply and the bass keeps a steady pulse. It’s what Tod Hughes serves up with his debut EP Changin’ Gears, but his commitment to comfort likely means there’s scarcely more than one song out of the six destined to linger in listener’s memories. Coasting makes for a great night out, but it doesn’t fuel longer journeys. 

The songwriting for “Let’s Dance” is definitely on cruise control. Over an impressive band performance, Hughes unloads a litany of clichés united by a well-worn central theme. One can say that Hughes simply translates colloquialisms and conversational idioms into song, but if some listener’s won’t let Bob Dylan get away with it, they won’t likely be nearly as forgiving of Hughes’ excesses. “Follow Your Heart” doesn’t just repeat its mistakes, it amplifies them. The entire premise of the song is one part abiding truth and another part gooey sentiment, but the lyrics bring it firmly under the heading of the latter. The musical backing does it few favors with a competent but uninspiring performance. 

“Brad’s Song” is an improvement, but suffers a similar fate. The narrative has possibilities for a deeper character study more fitting for Hughes’ aims as a songwriter, but he’s content to present listeners with well-worn variations on a theme. “Just Sing” flirts with the same ends, but there’s an easy-going beauty in the music and lyrics alike that helps distinguish it from pure pabulum. “The Quiet” bristles with late night groove and brings the release closer to rock music than anywhere else. It’s the freshest sounding number on the EP and juxtaposition of Hughes’ voice with the backing creates an interesting contrast. 

The EP’s greatest moment comes with “The Only Person Who Won’t Drink with Me Is You”, a final reminder of what the collection’s earliest songs could have been with a stronger sense of risk taking. This is equal parts comedy bit and bitter rumination, though the first quality comes through in a much stronger way. The band ends things with, perhaps, their most scintillating performance on the release. It helps the EP in general to end it so strongly. Changin’ Gears sounds a little like Hughes is searching for his voice still, but there could be any number of reasons why the second half seems so much better than the first. Not essential, but entertaining.


Tod Hughes Project

Changing Gears

Band Blurb

There needs to be more space in the world for warm, unpretentious acts like this. Tod Hughes leads a band capable of aping traditional country, but equally capable of playing with smiling, wide-eyed rock and roll abandon. His appealingly rusty, sarcastic voice has deceptive levels of sensitivity that turn tunes with otherwise narrow appeal into more encompassing efforts. Despite declaring icons like Dylan and Cash to wield direct influence over his music, Hughes’ songs are much smaller affairs, small screen narratives plucked from everyday life.

“Let’s Dance” is a big example of just such a song. The relatively un-ambitious subject matter urging the object of the singer’s affections to seize a chance for real, if momentary, happiness prospers when placed against the band’s muscular backing.  The following song, “Follow Your Heart”, is a paler effort that adopts a more casual approach. While it’s a pleasant experience, listeners are right to assume songs titled as such and taking on this subject matter might benefit from energy and creativity appropriate for the subject.

“Brad’s Song” impresses because of the loose confidence the band displays, but even its attempts at humor are a little lacking. The title hints at a stronger point of view than what emerges from the lyrics, but an alternative point of view says Hughes simply refrains from browbeating the listener with a lot of useless detail. “Just Sing” plays a bit coy and childlike, but it isn’t difficult to imagine the song investing any audience with a warm glow. The traditional instruments feel like they’ve been added as an arbitrary afterthought rather than a natural outgrowth of the song, but they bring tasteful colors to the song.

“The Quiet” bubbles and percolates with genuine rock and roll spirit. It’s a surprising twist on an album that, until this point, remains singularly devoted to manifesting the twang. The confident vocal from Hughes is another unexpected surprise that pushes this track to a higher level. “The Only Person Who Won’t Drink with Me Is You” finishes the EP with some sleek, rough and tumble rockabilly with dark-spun humor.

Changin’ Gears doesn’t have enough gears to justify its title – it’d be fantastic to hear more of the atmospheric rock the Tod Hughes Project calls up on “The Quiet” and less of played-out pop like “Follow Your Heart”. It is worthwhile seeking the EP out, however, as Hughes clearly establishes himself as an important new talent.

Score: 7 out of 10 stars

Indie Munity

Tod Hughes Project

Changing Gears

While listeners will likely finish listening to Tod Hughes’ debut wondering what the title means in relationship to the songs, one uncertainty they won’t likely experience is about the EP’s quality. The six songs are strong, if lightweight, efforts in a country/rock vein expertly played but with limited ambition. Singer/songwriters of this ilk, especially those citing Dylan and Cash as major influences, typically bring more lyrical ingenuity to the table than Hughes does here, but he compensates for this with his strong, if unusual, vocal performance.

Listeners will hear a full dose of that unusual style on the opener, “Let’s Dance”. There’s a quirky, semi-comical quality to his voice that sits at odds with the song’s message, but the contrast doesn’t hurt the track. Instead, it offers probably the only inspired twist on an otherwise tired formula and moldy subject matter for popular songs. It’s obvious that Hughes is shooting for a certain audience with this song that wants this sort of reassuring sonic experience, so the track will find favor with many. “Follow Your Heart” will likely meet more resistance because it conforms so relentlessly to a formula and gives listeners nothing new to work with. You’ve heard this before and better.

“Brad’s Song” skirts up close against the same clichés that hurt other songs, but the elegiac and relaxed sweep of the music has surprising depth. There’s a dark strain of melancholy further distinguishing the song from the surrounding material, but there’s added depths to the song that Hughes leaves unexplored. “Just Sing” visits familiar territory, but there’s such unfettered sincerity in Hughes’ praise of music’s power that merges with the evocative melody. Its refusal to overplay its hand musically helps set it apart as one of the best tracks on Changin’ Gears.

It can’t eclipse “The Quiet” though. The EP’s second to last track is a glorious rock number that Hughes proves himself fully capable of raising to a higher level. He wraps his voice around the band’s great groove and the song’s neo-funk edges highlight it. The release comes to a great end with the finale, “The Only Person Who Won’t Drink With Me Is You”. This relentless rockabilly stomp is a final reminder of the band’s firepower, but Hughes’ smirking vocal leads the way again.

This is a strong introduction to the Tod Hughes Project that has an impressive second half compensating for a pale beginning.

Score: 8/10 Stars

Rocknroll View

Tod Hughes Project

Changing Gears

It’s rare to have any insight why people write and record the music they do. If you look at major entertainers like Britney Spears, et al, the answer is clear. Financial rewards and public adulation motivate many. When you encounter a performer like Tod Hughes and his band, however, the answers are less clear. The six songs on his Changin’ Gears EP won’t make him much money and a full-length effort will, at best, make only marginally more. These aren’t songs that get you a spot in the Super Bowl halftime show, tied-in with a blockbuster movie, or rubbing elbows with a late night television talk show host. Tod Hughes is clearly writing and performing these songs for himself and an increasingly limited audience. Maybe he should wear sequins or hire a couple of dancers, but something about this music tells listeners he knows a level of personal satisfaction that most major entertainers seldom experience.

It’s a shame, however, that the songs aren’t better. Weakness is evident from the outset. “Let’s Dance” revisits an oft-explored theme of enjoying the moment with a loved one. It’s problematic enough, but Hughes drags it down more with an assortment of clichés. The backing musicians save it with a swaggering and in-your-face performance. It’s possible to appreciate the positivity and humor Hughes aims to fill his songs with while remaining unsatisfied with its execution. The EP sinks further with “Follow Your Heart”, a paint by numbers lyric so swaddled with predictability that not even the musicians can improve the listening experience.

“Brad’s Song” impresses itself on the consciousness as much closer to the “real” Tod Hughes than the opening songs. His humor rises to the fore here with a biting edge that’s an excellent antidote to the earlier artificiality. The band has yet to match their first performance musically, but their backing here is competent and relaxed. Hughes poises “Just Sing” as a light-hearted ode to the transformative power of music and there’s something beautifully childlike in his lines that gives it a surprising sense of wonder.

“The Quiet” bursts into life with strident drums and well-timed flourishes from keyboards and wah-wah guitar. Hughes proves himself a capable rock singer, but it isn’t any chest-beating front man routine. Instead, he gives the track a gritty authenticity noticeably absent from the earlier tracks. It’s one of the EP’s best moments, uniquely his own, and suggests future directions for him to take. The final track, “The Only Person Who Won’t Drink with Me Is You”, ends the EP on a strong note. The forceful charge of the music retains the country/rockabilly fueled fun from earlier tracks, but if this were a nightclub act, you’d be forced to admit that Hughes saved his best joke for last. There’s a lot of humor here help make the song more memorable.

The first half of Changin’ Gears doesn’t have a lot to offer. Hughes pours old wine into old bottles and switches the labels, but the same flat taste comes through. The EP’s second half is much improved and bears enough of a distinctive touch that it redeems, at least in part, the weak opening.

7/10 Stars

All Whats Rock

Tod Hughes Project

Changing Gears

Grizzled Canadian born singer/songwriter Tod Hughes might not fit the mainstream public’s idea of what constitutes a pop star, but he’s aimed the songs on his debut EP Changin’ Gears to reach the biggest possible audience. The humor spreading over the collection’s six songs leavens the melancholy strains percolating beneath the surface of many songs and, arguably, is the release’s defining characteristic. The production is seamless and puts Hughes’ vocals front and center, but despite his voice’s occasional quirkiness, the decision empathizes his storytelling skills and gives the EP an unique flavor.  

Unfortunately, clichés plague the songs in big ways. The opener “Let’s Dance” has a friendly veneer and Hughes’ vocals do a great job of approximating the song’s tone, but a grab bag of lines like “If I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then” and an equally familiar chorus that settles when it should be digging deeper. Similar problems burden “Follow Your Heart”. Lyrics about chasing dreams so they’ll come true are pulled straight from pop songs and greeting cards, but Hughes’ rich voice conveys the sentiments like hard-won wisdom. The backing has a sound verging on honkytonk that puts a new coat of paint on an otherwise rickety vehicle.  

“Brad’s Song” has a steady, up-tempo pulse and a grimly funny lyric that Douglas’ voice turns into something greater. There’s something about his voice reminiscent of how blues singers often claimed their jovial songs were often a buffer against tears. It’s heard in the sad sack, slightly sarcastic shrug in the face of life’s challenges and setbacks and deadpan acceptance of undesirable fates. “Just Sing” tempers the humor with the song’s soft mid-tempo swing and a sensitive vocal. The music has a traditional spin, complete with added instruments that help accentuate the melody. 

“The Quiet” moves far afield of the retro sounds heard elsewhere and, instead, will surprise many with its rugged grind. Lyrical clichés are still problematic, particularly hoary metaphors like “covers me like a shroud”, but the track is such a fresh color on his palate that many will forgive its weaknesses. “The Only Person Who Won’t Drink with Me Is You” is an ideal closer – its high velocity charge and romping humor are the fullest realization of Hughes’ musical vision. The guitars deliver a nasty bite that helps put the song over more.  

Changin’ Gears isn’t groundbreaking, but its deceptively modest ambitions promise a solid release and the songs largely deliver on that. While including “The Quiet” does a lot to diversify the album’s sound, the EP still seems a bit samey and longer releases will need greater textual variety.  

Score: 7/10 Stars

Lonesome Highway

Tod Hughes Project 'Changing Gears' - Self Release 

Hughes is a singer/songwriter from Calgary, Alberta and this EP of six songs is a debut release. Clocking in at just shy of 22 minutes it is pleasant listen with production from fellow musicians Spencer Cheyne & Craig Newnes. It comprises commercial radio tunes that are melodic and unobtrusive. The soul-based groove of The Quiet is driven by the Hammond B3 of Mike Little. The Only Person Who Won’t drink With Me is You has a nice county honky tonk swing, with Mitch Fay adding some nice guitar lines over tinkling piano. Changing Gears will serve as a taste of things to come.


Tod Hughes Project

Changing Gears

We need more simple albums. On his debut EP Changin’ Gears, Tod Hughes dispenses with eardrum busting production, elaborate song structures, and strident theatricality. He presents listeners with six straightforward songs written about subjects drawn from everyday life and musically tailored along similar lines. The Canadian based singer/songwriter’s gifts are real. He has discernment enough to pull back on the reins enough to entertain audiences instead of letting his self-indulgence fly, but he has a talent for twisting and uncovering illuminating turns of phrase. His vocals are a weak spot, but by album’s end, it’s hard to miss how his vocals can work given the right songs.

The first song, “Let’s Dance”, illustrates an important side to Hughes’ songwriting in action. Hughes’ writing adeptly mixes original lines with conversational idiom – clichés and well-worn phrases that he employs verbatim or else slightly revises. The recording here, as elsewhere, has superb clarity and highlights crack musicians who effortlessly conjure a rollicking retro country backing track. More important than all of this, however, is the song’s accessibility. While Hughes might trumpet Bob Dylan as an important influence, Hughes has expended a lot of energy on writing readily comprehensible songs capable of reaching the widest audience.

Writing songs with titles like “Follow Your Heart” shows clear commercial aims. There are instances when Hughes’ writing style and subject matter lead him down some blind alleys and “Follow Your Heart” certainly qualifies. More than a hundred years after the dawn of popular music, titles like that create towering hurdles to scale. While this song doesn’t find that measure, it does have appealing energy and a more assured vocal than the opener.

“Brad’s Song” stands out from the first two songs. The lyric and Hughes’ emotive vocal imply an intimacy here unheard on earlier numbers. It moves at a relaxed pace despite the narrative’s heavy subject matter, but the restraint of such a light touch helps give the song allure it might otherwise miss. “Just Sing” has scattered moments of beauty reinforced by the melodic accompaniment, but much like “Follow Your Heart”, the result plays on familiar themes and feels too assembled, rather than lived.

He unleashes a surprising rocker with “The Quiet” that nearly succeeds in stealing the show. The introduction of keyboards and thumping tempos isn’t an incongruous flexing of muscle. In some ways, Hughes sounds much more effective as a singer here because the material forces his voice to take on a wilder edge. The improbably titled “The Only Person Who Won’t Drink with Me Is You” relies on its dark, perhaps fatalistic, humor to make an impact, but it’s satire with teeth and the band’s lean strength helps hone it to a sharp point.

Changin’ Gears weakens in places, but this solid debut bodes well for any future full-length releases. Hughes has enough craft and spleen to sustain longer releases and any future songwriting will benefit from the experience of writing this EP.

8/10 Stars
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