In a new three-track teaser for his upcoming LP Hard Lessons, bluesy singer/songwriter Bud Summers takes some jazzy basslines out for a walk and colors the rhythm that accompanies them with a sophisticated texture that he’s built his brand on. Summers is ably backed by Rob McDonnell on bass, John Hand on keyboard and Marc Waters on drums, with all three men contributing backing vocals, but there’s never any question as to who the star of the show is in every one of these songs. His sizzling guitar play is a constant presence, lighting up “Bad Fish” with a cerebral sway that is reminiscent of Buddy Guy in spots, tempering the swift grooves of “Endless Fantasy,” and defining “So Deep” and its sultry melodies.
“Bad Fish” and “So Deep” are straight-up virtuosity incarnate, but I think that it’s worth noting that they’re not particularly overindulgent in their complicated arrangements. “So Deep” has a jazz rhythm that is so entrancing that it doesn’t even need a vocal track to tell us a really poignant story, and with “Bad Fish,” Summers lets his fretwork lead the way as we slash through one blues harmony after another. The production quality is absolutely stunning, and I like that the natural chemistry of the players isn’t slighted in favor of putting the whole spotlight on Summers alone. Waters dishes out some feverish beats in both of these tracks, and the bassline that McDonnell devises in “Bad Fish” might be the most visceral I’ve heard all year.
“Endless Fantasy” is more conservatively executed than its two counterparts are, but that doesn’t minimize its mighty melodicism in the least. In this song, the swinging tempo steals the lion’s share of our attention away from the string parts, though that hardly prevents Bud Summers from doing what he does best with the stylish licks that frame the lyrics. Instrumentally, all three of these tracks are phenomenally gripping and progressively stylized so as to give us an almost cinematic listening experience, and the fact that Summers seasons each one of them with a smoky vocal timbre that is truly his own is really somewhat of an added bonus. He’s firing on all cylinders in these songs, and as far as I’m concerned, sounding extraordinarily relaxed while doing so.
Exquisitely produced and divinely constructed, these three tracks are more than enough to convince me that Hard Lessons is going to be one of 2019’s biggest indie hits. Bud Summers has never sounded so in his element as he does here, and that says a lot when you consider his stellar body of work as a whole. I’m really excited to hear his new album in its entirety, but for the time being, this trio of cleverly designed fusion numbers should keep me fairly occupied as both a fan and a critic. There are numerous layers within each of their narratives – both musical and lyrical – and one could spend an awful long time peeling them all back to decipher the subtext of this material. Summers proves himself an ever-evolving artist in these songs, and I for one can’t wait to hear more.