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An American Record

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Customer Reviews

THOUGHTS ON AN AMERICAN RECORD - by Leonard Pitts, Jr. The Miami Herald

On his brand new CD, Grayson Hugh sings of harbor towns and roads that don't look back, of thin trees and snow mountains, of mists rising from the sea and woods seen in soft southern light. He sings of mourning and disillusionment, of remembered love and lost time, of life scraped from the bottom of a lobster pot.
This is "An American Record". Some of us have been waiting for it a very long time.
I've been listening to Grayson for - Lord, has it really been that long? - 20 years, since I was a writer for Casey Kasem's countdown show and he was a young guy making his major label debut with a shades-of-Sam-Cooke soul stirrer called "Talk It Over". That song did everything except imprint itself on my DNA. His follow-up CD, "Road To Freedom", sealed the deal. I wrote about Grayson for Casey's show, wrote about him for Musician magazine, wrote about him in my music column for The Miami Herald, did everything but quit my job to follow him on tour, though I may even have considered that for half a second.
I wanted people to listen, to hear what I heard. Because this was music that told the truth.
Do you know how rare that is? Surely you've had that feeling, while flipping the radio dial, that American music has come to sound like a shopping mall - all shiny glass, gleaming contrivance and bright artifice, all surface shimmer with nothing underneath. But Grayson is another kind of cat. In a world where music is often a brittle artificiality, the music he makes is hard and strong, convicted and convincing. And true. Most of all, true.
It's there in the gritty lament of his voice, in the roughhouse eloquence of his piano, and the atmospheric poetry of his words. He has that thing Sam Cooke and Ray Charles had, that thing you still hear sometimes in Bruce Springsteen, that lonely, train whistle in the dark thing, that yearning, keening thing that gets right to the heart of what it means to be alive, what it means to be a human, being.
It is soul music in a way that has nothing to do with soul in the sense of Motown or Stax, the Godfather or the Queen, nothing to do, really, with any of the usual genres by which we demarcate American music. Country? Jazz? R&B? Rock? Grayson sounds like none of them, sounds like all of them. Because his music is soul in the sense that it looks you in the eye and speaks to you from the gut, that it is real, honest and - we keep coming back to that word - true.
"An American Record" is an ambitious journey across a vast landscape of American sounds and American places, from the cantankerous down east funk of "Swamp Yankee" to the elegiac lament that rises from a cemetery in "North Ohio", from a jazz-inflected meditation on a day when the snow in Connecticut lies in shades of "Bluewhite" to "What It's All About", a meeting of hearts at a beach on a Georgia island between two lovers wounded by life but loving, still.
This is, Grayson will tell you, an album of places, an autobiographical survey of his life's wanderings: "Evangeline" recounts his days in coastal North Carolina, "Angel of Mercy" recalls time spent in Manhattan and London, the barrelhouse piano of "Tell Me How You Feel" is a remembrance of lonely days in Buzzards Bay, Mass. But as much as or more than "An American Record" surveys places on the map, it also surveys (apologies to Sally Field) places in the heart, those tender and broken spots where the things you regret live side by side with those you still foolishly hope. "Give me one good reason to give it up," sings Grayson in "Give Me One Good Reason". "We can't stop believing in what we've got."
And we can't. Because it's the believing that makes us human.
On his new CD, Grayson Hugh sings of blue twilight turning black, and a thunderstorm looming on the horizon, of a catlike girl on a Boston train and an angel walking down on concrete, of life that flickers like a candle and of flying high above the tears. He sings of who we are beneath brittle artifice, what we regret beneath gleaming contrivance and how, at the end of the day, when everything else has conspired to pull us apart, loves mends us together again.
This is "An American Record". Some of us are glad the wait is over at last.

- Leonard Pitts. Jr., The Miami Herald, March 8, 2010 (winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary)

Long Overdue Return

Simply put, this is a great record from Grayson Hugh. I've missed his voice and songwriting and the world is a better place when he's recording. One piece of advice, get this record. It fits in perfectly with Blind to Reason and The Road to Freedom.


Born: Connecticut

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

This elusive, Connecticut vocalist, pianist, and songwriter initially excited soul fans in 1988 with his second album, Blind to Reason, which was closer to gritty, gospel-tinged soul than almost anyone was cutting at that time. The single "Talk It Over" made the pop Top 20, and both the single and album went gold. Grayson Hugh assembled a band and toured incessantly. Due to record company machinations, Hugh's second effort, Road to Freedom, landed on MCA in 1992. Two of its tracks, "I Can't Untie...
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An American Record, Grayson Hugh
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