Hailing from Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, Barry Jay Hughes has that ability to immediately captivate the listeners and audiences. It's not only his ability as a classically trained musician, his passionate vocal that pulls the right strings in your soul but also his warm personality. He could serve as an inspiration for aspiring songwriters - he gave up his day job to pursue music full time and we have no doubt this was the best decision he has ever made. Of course it's not an easy thing to do but if you have a passion in your heart and you work hard to achieve it, nothing is impossible. Yes, we paraphrased a famous quote by Michael Flatley here but feels appropriate. Barry Jay Hughes released a couple of singles throughout last year and the latest EP Just Be Honest With Yourself could be considered a culmination of these efforts.
The collection starts with Honest, a track where the title of the EP comes from. A gentle ballad that carries Barry Jay Hughes' trademark - a powerful message and a delivery that demands attention. He sings confidently, straight from the heart and you instantly get the feeling it is simply impossible not to pay attention to him and his words.
Diving In was the first single by the Monaghan songwriter we reviewed on this website. Slight sonic departure from his previous releases but very fitting at the same time. Atmospheric track both lyrically and musically, the strings add another layer to the composition, a little dark at times but this is exactly what those familiar with Barry Jay Hughes already expect. The echos create an impressively haunting effect on the vocals and the keys take the song to the next level.
Replace starts as a gentle piece where the singer is consolling us that we can be happy just to be alive while we can, otherwise we spend our days rushing to who knows where.."did you catch that train, did you catch that bus, it's all irrelevant 'cause we're rushing by..." As the song unfolds, we learn it's more of a love song to a lover who left and the broken hearted partner swears he will never love anybody else. Another powerful line "... life's too quick I should have gone for it..." is urging the listener to use the time they're given and do the things they've always wanted, fullfill their dreams while they still can. As the saying goes, once your days are over, you regret things you didn't do instead of those you did.
Possibly the most upbeat of these five songs, The Sound of Your Voice perfectly showcases Hughes' vocal range and he comes across as a soulful performer who on one hand carries his heart on his sleeve, can make all the hidden emotions inside you come out with his ballads but is also capable of making you dance along to the lively tunes.
The EP closes with the live version of Honest and it clearly demonstrates everything we mentioned in this review. The singer's personality shines through and by hearing the reaction of the audience at the end you get a great idea what his live performances are like. He doesn't need any effects nor a band behind him. Just a man, his guitar and his words create a remarkable combination that deserves to be heard.