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  • Jonathan Widran

HUGH JAMES, "Times Like These"

Sometimes, just as you’re about to give into the despair of a moment or era, a song comes along to remind you that, with any luck and probably with a lot of prayer, this too shall pass. For this strange fear and anxiety riddled time, that spiritually transformational tune is “Times Like These” - singer-songwriter Hugh James’ heartfelt, gospel inflected pop-R&B anthem which artfully doubles as a prayer to Providence for help and healing and a powerful call for us to set aside our differences for the common good.

James' soothing, soulful and inviting vocals – which increase in intensity as he expresses the heart of his plea to humanity in the chorus – are perfectly suited for a song that’s both down-homey yet prayerful and aspirational. He begins with a plea to a higher power, urging “the Father” to “Lead us to the water/Shower us with rain/Welcome us aboard the healin’ train” before sharing what’s needed on a purely human level in the first chorus: “In times like these/Ya find out what you’re made of. . .You learn your neighbor’s name/Gotta dig down deep/When your back’s against the wall/We rise and fall/In times like these.” In biblical terms, the song reflects the Scripture that reminds us that “faith without works is dead.”

In the second verse, James offers some geography to explain the scope of where we need these things to happen in America, while he uses the second chorus to appeal to our need to “work together” and “put our differences aside.” That’s not easy, especially with our current divisions, but James believes it’s possible because previous generations have done just that to overcome difficult times. While he was writing, he thought about the times our parents and grandparents endured and what future generations may encounter.

His overarching message is that we have to find a way to get through what life throws at you. As he says, “it’s not just about life in 2020 or the coronavirus, or today at 4 p.m.” In times like these, we need to pull it together even more.

Helping bring is vision to life is a powerful ensemble of veteran studio greats – guitarist Bruce Watson (Foreigner, Elton John), bassist Alexis Sklarevski (Carole King, Jackson Browne) and drummer Tom Walsh (Spyro Gyra, America). The rousing backing vocals are provided by Laura Creamer (Bob Seger, Don Henley), Carl Graves (Skylark, Oingo Boingo) and a multi-generational gospel trio (originally from North Carolina) called 3G.

James’ passion and each point of his thoughtful narrative on “Times Like These” are emphasized and driven home (straight to the heart) on the video clip he created for the track – which includes stunning images of American cities and iconic places, people throughout our history who endured hard times, baptisms and a collage of news items, in addition to a gorgeous sunset photo of the Statue of Liberty and a lit image of Abraham Lincoln seated in his memorial in Washington, DC. In a challenging year where the healing power of music is all the more important, “Times Like These” and the hopeful message it imparts is perhaps the most essential listening experience of all.


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