Singer, Songwriter Hugh James Captures Spirit Of Brotherly Love On New Single 'My Brother's Shoes'
Capturing the transcendent spirit of brotherly love like no other song in recent memory, Hugh James' compelling new gospel-soul single and video "My Brother's Shoes" is a stunning and heartfelt reminder to all of us not to judge the lives of others till we've walked a few miles in their proverbial footsteps.
With James featured on vocals and piano, the track also includes performances by legendary pedal steel guitarist Jay Dee Maness (well known for his work on Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven" and recordings by Elton John and Ray Charles, 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 family (originally from North Carolina) called 3G. 3G is prominently featured, along with raw 8mm footage shot by James and his son Nevada, in the beautiful, soul-stirring video clip of the song, which was directed by filmmaker Alan Marino.
The Los Angeles based singer/songwriter was inspired to write "My Brother's Shoes" in the wake of the passing of his brother Doug in 2014 after his sibling had fallen on hard times. The headline of the newspaper story about Doug's life and death (dateline: Lakewood, NJ) read "From waterfront home to Tent City; homeless man dies after long battle with alcohol." James, who had made many trips back East to help his brother in recent years, is quoted in the article as saying, "He just couldn't understand why people he loved died. He was talented, intelligent and generous. Don't judge him until you have walked in his shoes."
The song's poignant opening lines "Has anybody out there seen my brother's shoes? I think he was wearin' 'em when I got the news" seems like a spiritual-minded metaphor, but it's actually about the raw, earthbound reality of Doug's autopsy report. When he died at Tent City, it said he was wearing a red shirt and hospital socks. In the song, James' curiosity about what happened to his brother's shoes has him asking people far and wide for clues.
Doug, who had grown up fishing, playing little league and jamming in rock bands with James, grew up to be a successful contractor with a nice home and loving family.
When multiple tragedies struck, including the death of his wife and best friend, he turned to alcohol for solace and his slow descent into depression and homelessness began. During his darkest times, Doug told James that he was "walking with Jesus." So James looks upward in the song and asks, "Hey Jesus, have you seen my brother's shoes?" In line with Jesus' teaching "Judge not, lest ye be judged," James includes the lines "And when ya walk on water/Cast the first stone/I still gotta know..."
"The song has a couple of layers of meaning, depending on how each listener cares to interpret it. Even though it includes specific references to all of these, it's not meant to be a song about dying, or about homelessness or God - yet all of these elements resonate in a universal way. We've all been down and out at some point in our lives, or lost somebody dear to us. We've all felt the temptation to judge people's lives on the basis of their outward appearance without knowing the deeper story."
Growing up in New Jersey, James was inspired by everyone from the bands of The British Invasion, The Beach Boys and The Doors to Richard Rodgers, Randy Newman, Keith Emerson, Elton John and Billy Joel. As a piano major and composition minor at the University of Miami, he studied Chopin and Debussy and immersed himself in Miami's jazz and pop scene. Moving to Los Angeles, he developed a multi-faceted career in the music industry. In addition to penning cuts for Tiffany, The Triplets and Steve Holy, he has recorded and/or performed with Michael McDonald, BJ Thomas, Aaron Lines and film director Robert Townsend.
While holding court these past 15 years as the featured pianist in residence at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel in Anaheim, James has placed songs in numerous films, including the Disney remake of "Where the Red Fern Grows" (starring Dave Mathews and Kris Kristofferson), "A Promise To Carolyn" (starring Sissy Spacek and Delta Burke) and "Rustin," featuring Meat Loaf. More recently, his song "Way Back When" - was featured in the Movie "Camille" starring Sienna Miller & James Franco, while "Live a Little"; also from the Black & White World CD was featured in the Jessica Simpson movie soundtrack "Blonde Ambition." Both tracks appear on James' sole independent release as an artist, Black & White World. He is currently working on fresh material for an upcoming follow-up full length album.
Watch the video below: