Dont Be Fooled By the Hat
We have a hunger of the mind, which asks for knowledge of all around us, and the more we gain, the more is our desire; the more we see, the more we are capable of seeing. -- Maria Mitchell We owe almost all of our knowledge not to those who have agreed, but to those who have differed. -- Charles Caleb Colton How do you describe the flavor of a mango to someone who has never tried one? --Wayne Dyer Don't try to describe the ocean if you've never seen it. --Jimmy Buffett I heard a lot of people play some really good songs. The difference was, I never heard Hugo Duarte play a bad one. -- A Hugo Duarte fan Someone once asked friend and house concert host, Jeanne Combo, to describe my music and here's what she had to say. "Trying to define Hugo Duarte's music is a bit like trying to define good Cuban food to someone who's never experienced it's satisfying, mouth-watering sensations. Throw in a creamy, caramel colored flan for dessert; top it all off with shot of kick-in-the pants, revive-the-dead Café Cubano, and there you have it. Like good Cuban food, Hugo's music is a combination of a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and a whole lot of down-to-earth ingredients that come together in an adventure of the senses. You can't really describe it; you just have to try it in order to understand and appreciate the flavors and subtleties of whatever it is that you've just been presented." Such are the elements of this remarkably talented Singer/songwriter/storyteller. Duarte blends of a bit of Country, a pinch of Bluegrass, a handful of Southern rock, a cup or two of Blues, a dash of Island music, occasionally sprinkled with some American history, or tales of the sea, to form an eclectic style that doesn't fit into the traditional definitions of the Rock and Roll world, the Tropic/Island sound, Blues, Country or any other particular genre. Born of Cuban, Chinese, and Scots-Irish ancestry, Duarte's music is as diverse as his origins. His early childhood years were spent in Tigerville, South Carolina, an extremely small community in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was there he came to understand the basics of life in that close-knit, rural community where life was simple, where everyone's parents parented everyone else's kids, and music and song were an integral part of everyday life. Somewhere along the line, Hugo's family moved to North Carolina where Duarte's musical influences drifted away from the native Bluegrass and traditional country music that had been so much a part of his life and began to take a new direction. He began to focus on the Allman Brothers, the Marshall Tucker Band, Poco, the Eagles, Billy Joel, Elton John, Pure Prairie League, the Outlaws, Loggins and Messina, and many others. And that focus didn't stop there. It also included Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Led Zeppelin, Glen Miller, John Phillip Sousa, Aaron Copeland, and other equally divergent styles. A defining moment in Duarte's young life occurred when his long-time friend, Darrell Stafford, loaned him a guitar, an old Stella that had once belonged to Stafford's grandmother. At a formative time in a boy's life, when dreams take root, when idealism is at it's strongest, when words and melodies trigger the search for self, the loan of that old Stella marked a pivotal point on the compass in Hugo's young heart and mind. Visualize a 14-year-old boy, with that loaned Stella, sitting by the radio or dropping LPs onto a turntable and teaching himself to play along. This is the point where Hugo began developing his own brand of music, a style he dubbed "country music" because it wasn't that big a departure from what he'd grown up with. It was also during this time period that Hugo wrote his first song called "Dance For Me", a song about a ballerina. As Duarte continued to develop his music skills using various music styles as his guide, whether it was Soul, Country, Beach music, Rock 'n Roll, Classical, a unique blend emerged and began to meld together into his brand of "All Music". Hence the origins of Hugo's eclectic style... a style that really began to surface while at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Growing increasingly serious about his music, Duarte left college and began playing clubs in Charlotte, North Carolina and then on the road in places like the 'Tween Waters Inn in Captiva, Florida and Crow's Nest in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. It wasn't long before he realized he could make a living doing what he loved the best. A few years later as he drifted down that musical highway playing gigs with his ever-expanding group, The Full Sail Band, he found himself as far south in the US as one can go. Searching for a connection to his Cuban heritage, he arrived in the Florida Keys and fell immediately in love with the area. Hugo and The Full Sail Band strummed and sang at Rick's, Sloppy Joes, the Hog's Breath Saloon, Turtle Kraals, The Bull, The Top of La Concha, Pier House, and Casa Marina. Name it, Key West fans, and he's most likely played there. It was in those early Key West years that Hugo met and developed a professional friendship with the Calypso Poet, Jimmy Buffett. Over the years Buffett would call or stop by when he was in town, often sitting in with Hugo and the band. They occasionally shared the stage at a locally owned bar called Del Rios, which today is the site of the original Margaritaville Bar and Restaurant. Sometimes other friend-musicians stopped by as well. Anyone happen to be there on New Year's Eve when Hugo Duarte and The Full Sail Band made room on stage for Jimmy Buffett, Steve Winwood, and Steve Cropper? Other Key West on-stage collaborations have included the likes of Sam Clayton, Russ Kunkel, Billy Dean, Fingers Taylor, Michael Utley, Robert Greenidge, and Larry Michael Lee. Larry Michael Lee is also the producer of Hugo's CDs, Another Day In Paradise, Places Along the Road, and the recently released Don't Be Fooled By The Hat. Larry Michael Lee (of Ozark Mountain Daredevils fame) produced both of Hugo's first two CDs in Nashville. (Larry Lee was also producer on numerous major-label projects including Alabama, the Dirt Band, and others). All songs on all of Hugo's CDs, except for "Havana Flamingo" on the CD, "Places Along the Road", are either written or co-written by Hugo. This CD contains several country-flavored up-beat songs ("I'll Be Gone"," Willie's Country Store", "Reckless Lovin'"), some R&B style tunes like "You Ain't Helpin' Me Much" and "Between You & Me" as well as ballads like "End Of The Road", "Legend" and "Let 'Em Roll". "The End of the Road" is a poignant song about the realizations that many of us discover as we enter mid-life. The three remaining songs tell of historical events - "Song of the Sea" was written after Hugo was present with Mel Fisher's crew on the day that the wreck of the 'Nuestra Senora de Atocha' was discovered and was subsequently allowed to dive on the wreck of the Atocha in July 1985. "Legend" is a left-handed tribute to Frank & Jesse James and "Havana Flamingo" tells of the Mariel Boat Lift in Cuba. The CD "Another Day in Paradise" contains several songs that harken to Hugo's earlier days in Key West. "Back to the Islands", "Cutie", " Another Day in Paradise", "Key West Heart", "Modern Day Buccaneers" and "Somewhere Headed South" all have a "Keys" flavor. To hear a little bit of his "hillbilly" side, take a listen to "Danged Old Truck" and "Hillbilly Beach", "You Are the One I Love" and "Paradise Tonight". All are upbeat tunes, with the exception of "Somewhere Headed South". "Ring the Bells" has a nautical flavor and a quite haunting Celtic penny whistle background. Hugo Duarte is an accomplished one-of-a-kind artist who defies being pigeonholed with each and every song he brings forth from his guitar. Yes, Hugo Duarte's music is unique. It demands something of the listener, especially if the listener really wants to "get it". Yes, you can put it on in the background and it will sound great, or you can choose to listen closely and that's when a door to a truly unique awareness really begins to open. So...why settle for standing outside and peering through the window? Open that door and step inside...really inside, where you will hear, see, and feel the magic.