Hugh DeNeal is mostly known as singer and songwriter for the Trashcan Americana band Woodbox Gang, and the subject of a documentary film: Confidence Man: The Hugh DeNeal Story. His latest project, however, is the music group called The People vs. Hugh DeNeal.
The group just released their debut album, Gas Station Sandwiches. The songs have a dark but humorous feel to them. They find the absurd and humanity in the strangest of places.
Besides DeNeal, the band includes Evan Sims on ukulele, Nicole Szczepanik on percussion, Nathan Graham on upright bass, and Dakota Holden on electric guitar and pedal steel.
The band members come from several other groups such as Whistle Pigs, Hobo Knife, Dakota Holden Trio, and Jenny and the Johnsons. They create high impact and haunting sounds against the strange tales inhabiting Gas Station Sandwiches.
There are thrift store fantasies, convenient store failures, automotive tragedies, One-Star buffet tributes and much more.
The album was recorded over a course of two years at Misunderstudio in Murphysboro, with Woodbox Gang engineer Mike Lescelius on board.
The full-length album is an intense and rewarding ride of emotions with sharp songwriting backed by expert musicianship.
DeNeal said he has found Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits to be significant influences.
“I begged my dad to show me a few chords on the guitar as a kid,” DeNeal said, “and he portrayed a three-chord triad enough for me to figure out Blowing in the Wind at some point.”
He said he learned more from a Mel Bay Chord book and used that information to figure out Sex Pistols songs.
“I’ve always had an equal affinity for protest folk tunes and the delivery of punk rock, and I wanted to deliver that to an audience in a natural way,” he said.
“In other words, I fell in love with The Pogues!”
He finds himself lucky to be playing with the group of musicians. He said the songs he has written would not have the same effect without the performance of the band members.
“The same songs become a thing worth hearing when performed with a band, and these wacky tunes justify their existence,” he said. “I feel very honored to exist among inspiring artists who created an album that we hope the world will enjoy.”
The album is at Plaza Records in Carbondale as well as online on CD Baby, ITunes, Spotify and several other streaming and download resources.