Veteran songwriter, keyboardist and singer Grayson Hugh was looking for a guitarist, but little did he imagine a 17-year-old high school student would be joining his band The Moon Hawks.
For Hugh — who has experienced the highs and lows of the recording industry and has spent his fair share of time touring — the meeting with Bobby Paltauf appeared destined to happen and thus far, has been a rewarding musical experience for each of them.
Based in Redding, Conn., Paltauf started playing guitar at the age of eight. He released his debut album, Lost and Found in 2014 and currently has a late-spring release tabbed for his follow-up, the material of which he will be featuring at StageOne in Fairfield on March 11 when the quartet he leads — The Bobby Paltauf Band — will be opening for Hugh. Paltauff pulls double duty on the bill, joining the Moon Hawks for their set with Hugh.
Paltauf has been turning heads for years. At the age of 12, he sat in with blues legend Buddy Guy for a version of Larry Davis’ “Texas Flood,” best known as a track that was part of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s repertoire for many years.
While trading licks with Guy may be a career highpoint for most people, Paltauf has taken the stage with a number of notable musicians, including
The Meter Men featuring founding members of The Meters — Leo Nocentelli, George Porter, Jr., and Zigaboo Modeliste along with Phish keyboardist Paige McConnell; Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk; Anders Osborne and Stanton Moore to name but a few.
Danbury-based Hugh’s latest effort, Back To The Soul (Swamp Yankee Music) features 12 tracks steeped in southern soul stylings, replete with warm horn arrangements and sterling backing vocal support from his wife, former Eight To The Bar singer Polly Messer.
His fifth solo work and first since 2010’s An American Record (Swamp Yankee Music), marks a return to Hugh’s roots and more importantly, a continuing triumph over a dark period of his personal and professional life which literally sidelined him for a portion of the early 2000s.
A native of West Hartford, Hugh made his recording debut in 1980 with his self-titled release. His follow-up (Blind to Reason) after he signed to RCA in 1988, featured three singles that reached Billboard’s Hot 100 with one of them, “Talk It Over” making the Top 20.
The momentum of success continued in 1991 as he landed two tracks (“I Can’t Untie You From Me” and “Don’t Look Back”) in the blockbuster film Thelma & Louise, while his 1992 release, Road To Freedom (MCA) was tabbed as one of the top 10 releases of the year by Billboard. A track from that CD, a cover of Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Remember You,” was included on the Fried Green Tomatoes soundtrack.
Hugh cites such legendary vocalists as Marvin Gaye, Elvis Presley and Otis Redding as influences. A lifelong pianist, he got turned onto rhythm and blues thanks to ones of his earliest record purchases: Ray Charles’ brilliant 1962 release What’d I Say — featuring the famed electric piano on the title track — which captivated Hugh who would not only memorize it, but soon get hooked on playing the Hammond B3 organ after hearing Booker T and the MGs.