Jedd Hughes


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Jedd Hughes seems to have been on a fast track to record stores since he arrived from Australia to attend the bluegrass program at South Plains College in Texas a few years back, only to be spotted by Terry McBride, who became his songwriting collaborator and helped him get a job backing Patty Loveless on her Down From the Mountain Tour. MCA Nashville, conscious of the success of Australia's last guitar-playing export, Keith Urban, then signed Hughes up, resulting in a debut album at the age of 22. Transcontinental is a tribute to Hughes' guitar skills. It is full of fingerpicked electric fretwork that recalls George Harrison stealing licks from Carl Perkins. And Hughes sings in a yearning tenor reminiscent of Ricky Skaggs. Meanwhile, he and McBride have shared their songwriting sessions with such pros as Al Anderson, Billy Burnette, and Bruce Robison. Nevertheless, it's the songwriting that lets the album down. The songwriters haven't turned out typical Nashville formula work, but they haven't come up with anything really distinctive for the most part. The one exception is Anderson's "I Don't Have a Clue," a lovelorn tune with a certain bite, but Hughes is content to sing it without enough venom to make its wit land. A bunch of high-profile singers, including McBride, Loveless, and Alison Krauss lend their voices in harmony on one song or the other, but their contributions are more notable in showing support than in really affecting the outcome. As a result, the album is to be enjoyed largely as a guitar showcase, and it certainly demonstrates that Hughes has chops.

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