Humphreys plays New York City next Wednesday, September 25, at The Bowery Electric before late October dates in North Carolina and shows in NYC (11/6) and Phoenixville, PA (11/9). Dates and details here.
Greg Humphreys is a perennial pleasure, an ever-blooming example of what dedication to one’s art and a fierce resistance to abandoning exposed heart and simple, sincere emotion can produce. Since emerging with cult beloved Dillon Fence in the 80s and then busting onto the groove rock scene with Hobex in 1990s, Humphreys has steadily built up the kind of catalogue that marks him as the next generation behind utterly reliable pros like Nick Lowe, Willie Nile and John Hiatt, and as a peer to high quality contemporaries Johnny Irion, Ed Anderson and Neal Casal. With a voice as smooth as 70s Motown yet country as hell when it wants to be, Humphreys is a classic crooner, understanding it’s the singer AND the song that really seals the deal. And Humphreys’ tunes are crisp, clear and Tin Pan Alley awesome, the sort of fare that shows how hard it is to work, even on the edges, of the same field as song masters like Paul McCartney and Loudon Wainwright III. Humphreys pulls it off with easy aplomb, a natural in the Fantastic Mr. Fox sense.
This old sea will throw you around/ Make you feel like you’ll never be found/ But a star in the night will show you a light/ And one day love will abound.”
Bohemia (released May 7, listen and pick up CD here) is Humphrey’s fourth solo album, and kids, it’s a corker. “While You’re Away” brings the bubbly, romantic bounce Les Paul & Mary Ford to today, “Jubble on, Jubbly” is finger-picked dust road, nonsense blues that suggests what Capt. Beefheart might have sounded like in a lighthearted mood, and “Shelby, I Told You” is sadly sweet country jukebox perfection – and this is just one three song run on an album that feels richly diverse despite its brevity. See, Humphreys is such a solid gold champ he can get the job done in half the time with twice the impact of lesser singer-songwriters.
His reach here dabbles in Ink Spots-esque acoustic pop (“Sweet LaRue”), gentle railroad picking (“Railroad Bill,” where he’s joined by Phil Cook of DI Super Faves Megafaun – Cook also plays some tasty slide dobro on “Jubble on, Jubbly”), earnest classic R&B (“Someday, I’ll Have Mine” where Humphreys’ Sam Cooke echoes reverberate loudly), Bill Withers style folk-soul (“Sayin’ What You Mean”), and sparkling California dappled rock “(Across the Ocean, Mama,” where one can easily imagine Topanga Canyon denizens rolling a number and inhaling Greg’s vibe). One can point to a lot of classic touchstones listening to Greg Humphreys but it’s not because he’s emulating anyone. He just operates on a simpatico plain, offering up serving after serving of truly well crafted, beautifully delivered music that goes down smooth.
We invited Greg to pull up a chair at DI’s philosophical roundtable, and here’s what he had to say.
Name: Greg Humphreys
Band(s): Dillon Fence, HOBEX
Nicknames: Grumphreys, Humpers
What’s the first thing that springs to mind when you see the word “God”?
“What can I say about God that has not been said?”
Which has the better cosmology, Star Wars or Star Trek? Why?
I prefer Star Wars’ cosmology because it’s more mythic, more universal. While I still enjoy Star Trek stories immensely, the Star Trek universe to me is more of a science-fictional extension of modern western political organizations and ideals – more temporal.
Name one album that has spiritual resonance for you.
The Beatles’ Revolver. Somehow listening to it over and over made me believe I could make great records. It hit me around the time I started touring full-time and smoking pot heavily.
Woody Allen once said, “I don’t know the question but sex is definitely the answer.” So, what’s the question?
“How do you keep your sweetheart happy?”
You can have a dinner party with any three people throughout human history. Who do you invite, what’s on the menu and what intoxicant do you share for dessert?
GUESTS: Jesus, because even though it’s an obvious choice I’m curious, John Lennon, because I’d like to have a jam session after dinner, and Curtis Mayfield, because I’d like to thank him and write a song together.
MENU: Carolina pit-cooked barbeque with all the sides. Eaten outdoors, preferably, and washed down with un-sweet tea with lemon.
DESSERT INTOXICANT: Pot oatmeal cookies. Although I quit smoking weed years ago, I still do edibles on occasion. I could totally get down with a pot cookie-fueled jam sesh with Jesus, John Lennon, and Curtis Mayfield.