There are some styles of music which defy exact pigeon-holing, clear labelling and generic demarcation. Hughes & Dixon make just such music. It isn’t that their music can’t be identified with one style, it is because it skirts so many, in this case, folk, Americana, acoustic pop, singer-songwriter, melodic rock, modern blues and so on. This is the music which goes on to be called “classic” and it is hard not to imagine that the songs found on Songs For A Dupont Cafe will not one day be hailed as such.
That is high praise indeed, especially for a band that has only just come to my attention but I feel that I know quality when I see it…or in this case, hear it. Having performed in various guises over the last two decades, such as Envy Waits and Opus Jones, Hughes & Dixon, which in itself does sound like an upmarket male outfitter, recently reunited to revisit some music that was recorded in the pre-internet age. This is the result.
It may seem as if there is only so much that you can do with a voice and a guitar, and that may be true for less seasoned players. But Hughes & Dixon have experience on their side and wielding just these two musical weapons they reap some devastating results. Welcome shows just how much emotion they can wring out of their chosen form, the song itself being something that the likes of Tracey Chapman would have happily taken them on in hand-to-hand combat for, if there was a chance of her having the song for herself.
Ride is a perfect example of the deftness and delicacy with which Patrick Hughes plays, a cascade of sweet and hypnotic, chiming and utterly charming finger-picked chords and If Not Now Then When shows us just how devastating Marc Dixon’s understated, less-is-more vocal approach is. And of course, these are just random examples of their fine work as you could go to any song found here and find a vocal example or an instrumental reason why this album stands head and shoulder above even its closest rivals. And that doesn’t happen very often but consistency is the name of the game here.
Songs For a Dupont Cafe is a great album, one that reminds us that it isn’t with studio tricks, musical gimmicks, guest rappers and dance routines that albums reach classic status. Such fad and fashion are fine for the brief moment of recognition but if you want more than the fifteen minutes of fame you have to do what Hughes & Dixon have done here. Write fantastic songs. Songs that are built with longevity and discernment, integrity and authenticity in mind. Songs that already sound like they are bonafide classics!