Happy 20th Anniversary to Texas’ fifth studio album The Hush, originally released May 18, 1999.
In 1984, the Wim Wenders directed, Ry Cooder scored film Paris, Texas became a critical smash noted for its story, cinematography and expansive music. The latter proved to be a point of inspiration for vocalist/guitarist Sharleen Spiteri and former Altered Images and Hipsway bassist Johnny McElhone, who were so taken with Cooder’s arrangements that they formed the band Texas in Glasgow, Scotland two years later in 1986. Soon enough, along with drummer Stuart Kerr and slide guitarist Ally McErlaine, Texas took to the Scottish touring circuit before they locked down a deal with Mercury Records.
Released in 1989, Southside—Texas’ first album—saw the quartet wield an exceptional combination of album oriented rock, blues and subtle soul music touches that drove the LP to gold and platinum returns. Accomplished follow-ups emerged with Mothers Heaven (1991) and Ricks Road (1993). Though these affairs continued in the rock-blues-soul composite style that Texas had made their trademark, the record buying public had seemingly lost interest.
In 1997, Texas turned a commercial and critical corner on their fourth set White on Blonde. Utilizing a handsome mixture of Britpop, Northern Soul, adult contemporary and vintage French cinema sonics, White on Blonde signaled the start of an unexpected resurgence for the pop-rock outfit. As the multi-platinum project began cooling in early 1998, the drafting work on their fifth long player The Hush was already underway so the momentum gifted to them by its precursor wouldn’t be lost.
McElhone—under the guise of “Johnny Mac”—assumed lead production duties for The Hush. This development marked a significant step forward for Texas as their first three albums featured guidance from outside producers. And while they garnered some gains on White on Blonde, that record found them working in co-producer capacity only, alongside external boardsmen too. Impressively, McElhone’s involvement at the mixing desk didn’t diminish his role as Texas’ bassist. With his bandmates McErlaine and keyboardist Eddie Campbell—Campbell joined in 1991 and is still a core member—their playing is demonstrably versatile throughout and leads the pack of auxiliary studio hands hired for The Hush to bring further sonic breadth to the sessions.
The songwriting for the record remains a mostly closed affair though. Only three co-writers—Robert Hodgens, Mark Rae and Steve Christian (who have recorded their own material under the Rae & Christian moniker)—are brought in to pen compositions with Spiteri and McElhone on “Tell Me the Answer,” “Summer Son,” “Move In” and “The Day Before I Went Away.” Otherwise, the song scripts for The Hush come from Spiteri and McElhone with occasional support from Campbell.
Having shored up the technical aspects of the recording processes for The Hush, Texas found themselves in an exploratory mood musically. The autumnal pop sprawl favored for White on Blonde is exchanged for a summery amalgamation of R&B, jazz and guitar-pop sounds. Though there had been American and British pop-soul strains underneath Texas’ rock musculature on past endeavors, here Texas pull them forward to operate as the axis of The Hush. There are the elaborate anachronisms of “When We Are Together” and the title track that evoke spirits of The Supremes and Dusty Springfield. The striking album side “Day After Day” is a Thom Bell inspired downtempo number shamefully overlooked for consideration as a single.
On the contemporary urban-pop end of things, Texas dabbles in groovy hip-hop soul via “In Our Lifetime” and “Girl.” The former track—also the record’s lead single—ropes in an exotic Cantonese melody and pairs it with a witty structural hat tip toward TLC’s 1994 evergreen “Creep” in the chorus. Elsewhere, a progressive fusion method is forged with art rock, electro-R&B and jazz elements on “Summer Son,” “Zero Zero” and “You’ll Never Know,” the latter cut exclusive to the Japanese edition of The Hush.
Thematically, Texas salutes the incomparable art form of the love song in its various emotional shades of lust (“Summer Son”), joy (“Sunday Afternoon”) and melancholy (“Saint”). Spiteri’s voice—boundless in its range—sketches vivid aural portraiture on “Tell Me the Answer” and “The Day Before I Went Away,” to spotlight just two entries. To call Spiteri a singular talent as a singer would be a vast understatement of her abilities.
Set forth for public consumption on May 18, 1999, The Hush gave Texas another repeat performance—à la White on Blonde—on the charts. Three singles—“In Our Lifetime,” “Summer Son,” “When We Are Together”—spun off of The Hush to extend Texas’ hit streak and ensured they’d enter their second decade on a high. Today, the Texas story is still being written as their most recent record Jump on Board (2017) attests. But, The Hush holds fast as one of their strongest chapters. It is an album that boldly expounded on the groundbreaking nature of its predecessor in a flavorful, filmic fashion.