Hugh Bob and The Hustle
Gig Seeker Pro

Hugh Bob and The Hustle

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2012 | SELF

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2012
Band Country Alternative




"Video Premiere: Hugh Bob & The Hustle - "This Bar Is A Prison""

Hugh Bob & The Hustle’s namesake, Hugh Robert Masterson, has a first-hand look at the small-town subtleties that inform the band’s rootsy sound: his hometown of Butternut, Wisconsin boasts a population of 300 and all the dirt road imagery you might expect from the most classic country song. But there’s just as much good time rock-n-roll as there is twang that erupts when Hugh Bob & the Hustle take the stage, and their music video for “This Bar Is A Prison” captures the party vibe perfectly. Between beer drinkin’, basement bars and bathroom hook-ups, the lyric “I tried to have one but I had another 10” feels pretty spot-on. Watch “This Bar Is A Prison” in the player above, and check out Hugh Bob & the Hustle’s upcoming tour dates below.

Hugh Bob & The Hustle Tour Dates
11 - Lawrence, Kansas @ Replay Lounge^
12 - St. Louis, Mo. @ Off Broadway
13 - Chicago, Ill. @ Schubas Tavern^
14 - Minneapolis, Minn. @ 7th Street Entry^
18 - Milwaukee, Wisc. @ Cactus Club (Hugh Bob Solo)^
10 - Lansing, Mich. @ Common Ground Music Festival
18 - Kimberly, Wisc. @ Paperfest (Hugh Bob solo)
26 - Butternut, Wisc. @ Pioneer Days
30 - Spring Green, Wisc. @ Shitty Barn

With Nikki Lane^ - Paste Magazine

"Hugh Bob & the Hustle Go Honky-Tonkin’ in “Blame Me”"

From the beer-soaked taverns of Milwaukee come Hugh Bob & the Hustle, new faces in Americana with an authentic honky-tonk sound.

Hugh Bob (Hugh Robert Masterson) grew up in Butternut, Wis. — population 300 — and only started writing songs about a year ago. But now that he has, two-steppers everywhere should rejoice. The band’s self-titled debut album features 11 modern throwbacks to the days of artists like Lefty Frizzell and Ernest Tubb.

Via email, Hugh Bob answered a few questions to introduce himself and his music.

CMT Edge: You started writing songs relatively recently. What made you want to get started?

Masterson: I’ve always wanted to be a writer and a singer, but I’ve always struggled with having enough confidence and was afraid of what other people would think about my lyrics or stories. I just got to realizing if I didn’t get over it and do what I wanted and try, I never would. I started telling everyone that I was starting a band before I had even started writing. That way I couldn’t chicken out of it as easily.

“Blame Me” sounds like a guy trying to end an argument. What is he admitting?

To be honest, that was the first song I wrote. It was during the first breakup with my ex-girlfriend. It seemed like I was constantly finding ways to screw up a good thing with a good person. I just started playing that A-chord and the first thing out of my mouth was “Blame me. It’s all my fault.”

Why are you so drawn to the honky-tonk style?

I grew up on a small farm in northern Wisconsin far away from a tiny town. Even as kids we spent a lot of time at the bars with our folks and their friends. It’s the social gathering place. I grew up on those old country tunes on the jukebox. Dwight Yoakam was always one of the coolest guys to me.

How does the Milwaukee music scene show itself in your music?

I think there’s a little bit of that Midwestern charm and sweetness to it but a lot of blue collar, hard-working, beer-drinking grit, too. The music scene in Milwaukee is very diverse. There really aren’t any other indie country bands there that I’m aware of.

Do you remember anything cool about shooting the video?

We know almost everyone in this video on some level. We had to play that song so many times, I think those folks probably don’t want to hear that song ever again. After we were done shooting, we had drinks with everyone and set up on the stage there at Yield Bar and played a set. By the last song, I was on top of a guy’s shoulders playing guitar. There were more than a few cabs taken home after that. - CMT

"Hugh Bob & The Hustle"

The Chronicles Of A Crushed Man, Rallying Down At The Bar
Illustration by Johnnie Cluney
Recording engineered by Patrick Stolley at Futureappletree Too -

"Watch the Hugh Bob and the Hustle Video for "Butternut""

Even on an album that didn't shy away from autobiography, "Butternut" stood out as one of the most personal tracks on songwriter Hugh Masterson's 2012 self-titled debut with Hugh Bob and the Hustle, a meditation on Masterson's small, Northern Wisconsin hometown of the same name. The band released a video for that single today. Filmed by local director CJ Foeckler, the photographer behind dozens of press shots for Milwaukee bands, the video is a visual document of a town that seems to grow smaller every year and that, at just 300 people, looks almost evacuated. For all the austere shots of deserted buildings and rundown landmarks, a loving picture emerges of a community that keeps ticking, regardless of whether its best years are behind it. - Sheperd Express


Hugh Bob And The Hustle hail from Milwaukee, WI and have coined their sound as ‘North Country.’ You’d expect a band with a soulful sound like theirs to come out of somewhere like Nashville, but this band has perfected the southern rock sound despite their Northern roots. Hugh Bob And The Hustle’s sound has the perfect mix of twang and guitars, and their lyrics are poetic and bright. At Highlight we’re fans of all genres of music, and we’re excited to introduce you to this up & coming southern rock 5-piece. Read below to find out why we love Hugh Bob And The Hustle!

Current single

Hugh Robert Masterson – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Nicholas Stuart – Vocals, Bass
Bradley Kruse – Keys, Vocals
Quinn Scharber – Guitar, Vocals
Justin Krol – Drums

How did Hugh Bob & The Hustle form?
Four of the five of us all played together previously in a band called The Wildbirds. After getting our gear stolen from us twice in one year we pulled the plug on that band and I began writing songs for the first time in my life. I played one of the songs for the rest of the guys and they liked the direction of what they heard. Quinn and Brad kept their same roles and instruments and Nick quickly adjusted from being a frontman and guitar player to be a great bass player and harmony singer.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Having Jon Graboff play pedal steel on our record was really great. He didn’t have to help out a band like us but he was happy to do it and since then we’ve become friends and he played a couple shows with us down in Nashville. Hopefully we’ll be able to do some more shows with him in the near future.

Why should people listen to you? What makes you different from other bands out there?
Our band is fairly unique. I don’t have an idea of what I want us to be exactly, it’s not derivative of a certain genre nor does it follow in the footsteps of another artist. It’s a little bit of rock, twang, roots, folk, and country. Most of the music is about growing up in Northern Wisconsin. Every song has meaning and a story to it. Most everyone can relate to the content of the songs, whether it’s about being sorry for messing things up, longing for home, drinking too much and making bad decisions, etc. There is a realness to the music. I’m not afraid to call myself out. It’s my release.

Check out Hugh Bob & The Hustle through their social media:
Website // Facebook // Twitter - Highlight Magazine

"Top 10 Picks for May 2013"

Hugh Bob & the Hustle releases video for “Butternut.”
The video directed by CJ Foeckler features the alt-country band in its hometown of Butternut, Wis., (Pop. 375) and is filled with stunning visuals of Butternut haunts like the ice cream stand, the Catholic lunch stand and the intriguing “spa bar.” - Milwaukee Magazine

"Interview: Hugh Bob and the Hustle's authenticity shines through"

What do you get when you put together the Wildbirds, Jaill and the small northern Wisconsin town of Butternut? No, it’s not a Scott Walker indie band. It’s Hugh Bob and the Hustle. Guitarist Hugh Robert Masterson leads a veteran group of Wisconsin musicians who have garnered a countrified alternative sound they call "North Country" that's been raising some eyebrows on their home turf of Milwaukee.

Avoiding the current trend of jumping on the indie-folk bandwagon, Hugh Bob and the Hustle combine rural lyrical insight and a unique electrified view of small town authenticity. Masterson takes songwriting inspiration from growing up in Butternut, WI (population 300). Along the way he did stints playing bass with indie stalwarts the Wildbirds and Jaill. We caught up with Masterson for a few questions.

I'm a big fan of the Wildbirds and Jaill who you played with at one time. How did the transformation occur from the raucous rock of the Wildbirds and Jaill to Hugh Bob and the Hustle?

I enjoyed playing in both of those bands very much. Nick and Vinnie are both great song writers and fun people to be in a band with. I wouldn't say there was a transformation for me when I started writing. The music that Hugh Bob and the Hustle plays has been bottled up inside of me for a long time. It's just who I am. I never had the courage or confidence, i suppose, to step out on my own and share my voice and my take on things with other people. I just had to step up a little.

The indie-folk invasion (Mumford & Sons, the Lumineers etc) has been everywhere over the past year. Hugh Bob and the Hustle manage to sound authentic without falling into the trap of mining an overexposed music genre. Your originality shines through. What do you attribute this to?

I get what those guys are doing and other bands do seem to be following that Mumford bro-grass heavy stomp and group vocals and loud "hey" chant styles. That's not really our world. It's important for me to tell a story instead of just coming up with one main revisiting anthemic hook. That's what I like about classic country music, there's always a great story in there. I guess I write songs that mean something to me and the rest of the band adds the things they're great at and it comes out the way it does. We're not trying to be like something else that is already going on.

Your hometown of Butternut, WI appears to be a big influence on your songwriting. What did you listen to growing up?

Yes, it is, very much so. The first tape I ever "owned" was by Bruce Springsteen. I found it after a tornado came through, no joke. So that got played a lot. We listened to a lot of folk music, Dwight Yoakam, the Beach Boys, John Hiatt, Greg Brown, The Band, Led Zeppelin, Tom Waits, JJ Cale, John Prine, Lucinda Williams, Robert Johnson, Waylon, WIllie, Cash, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, etc. We also heard all the classic country songs on the jukebox in the bars we'd go to with my Ma and Pa. The first CDs I owned were George Clinton and Taj Mahal, thanks Ma!

What are the future plans for Hugh Bob and the Hustle?

We have a bunch of Midwest shows, including one in Washburn near where I grew up. Jonny Fritz is coming up there with us, it's going to be a blast. We're heading out to NYC to play some shows and to tape a performance on the Artie Lange show. We'll be playing here in Milwaukee for Harley Davidson's 110th Anniversary and we'll be back in Madison soon for a street party so keep an eye out for that!

On the subject of Wisconsin bands, any new upcoming Milwaukee musicians that you recommend we check out?

I recommend you keep your eye out for The Cavewives! I saw them play one basement show, it was great! They're brand new. I set up a show for them October 6th at Hotel Foster in Milwaukee. They'll be playing with Promised Land Sound from Nashville, TN. PLS are coming out with their first record after doing a 7 inch with Third Man Records. You heard it here.

Editor's note: Hugh Bob and the Hustle play the Mile of Music festival in Appleton on August 9th and Live on King Street in Madison September 20th. - Rock of the Arts

"Who You Need To Be Listening To : : Hugh Bob and The Hustle"

Country renegades Hugh Bob and the Hustle deliver their self-titled debut album to the note of small-town boys following their dreams to a big city; home is where the heart is. Exploring natural storytelling impulses in the conventions of a country artist, Hugh Bob and The Hustle is compelling and sentimental. Hailing from Butternut, Wisconsin these boys chronicle the great American dream, drinking with friends, drinking too much, and the bittersweet feelings of leaving their hometown. Each track brings with it it’s own charm and likeability, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit to having favorites. I can’t get “Red White and Blue Jeans,” “Milwaukee Man” and “Butternut” out of my head. The first, semi patriotically named song, lead singer croons about the “American Dream” with a country twist. “Butternut,” is the last track on the album about their hometown summarized by the lyrics “Days go by but no ones ever leaving no matter how hard I try this towns got a hold on me,” and my favorite line, “I come from a long line of drinkers and boozers, gamblers, were all losers where I’m from.” Hugh Bob and The Hustle have released a music video for this single that can be viewed on purevolume. As you can tell from the written song clips; these three songs showcase the awe-inspiring elements of the album with compositions of lyrical genius and true heartfelt nostalgia. With a clear zest for life and strong passion and talent for music, Hugh Bob and The Hustle graces us with their debut; I encourage you to do yourself a favor, take a break from your crazy schedules, and hear for yourself – right here!

-Arielle Gelb - Unsigned & Unleashed

"Album Review: Hugh Bob & The Hustle’s Self-Titled Album"

Hailing from a Wisconsin town that comfortably holds three hundred people, Hugh Bob & The Hustle are probably one of the most original things to leave the state (besides dairy products, of course). Their self-titled debut album does not fall shy of incredible in the soulful Americana sound that radiates off this latest release.

During this music era that is dominated by over edited pop songs and dubstep beats, Hugh Bob & The Hustle are the refreshing sound we have been looking for. Opening their album with “Ashland Country”, that opening hook resembles something that could be found off of Ryan Adam’s Easy Tiger, showing the soul that this band pours into their music. The slow tempo of the song mixed with the light percussions and country filled guitar riffs are anything, but extraordinary, greatly showing the craftsmanship Hugh Bob & The Hustle possess.

The self titled album’s biggest standout song would have to be “North Country”, the perfect country rock song for anyone. With a sound that could have come out of good seventies country-rock band, Hugh Bob & The Hustle shows versatility on this album, “North Country” being the prime example of just how quality their music can be. Between the poetic lyrics and professionally crafted breakdowns in the track, its hard to believe that this is their first album. When music groups release their first album, it can be unclear what sound they are striving for or what direction they want to go, but its crystal clear that Hugh Bob & The Hustle are ready to take the soulful country-rock world by a storm.

The frontman of the group, Hugh Robert Materson, has had quite the experience in the music business. As a sideline bassist for the noted band Jaill, Hugh eventually decided to form Hugh Bob & The Hustle and step out as a singer-songwriter, every track on this debut record being some of the first he has ever written. For Hugh, the undertone of experience in each song on this album is what gives Hugh Bob & The Hustle an upper hand above many other artists in the genre.

Their latest single “Butternut” is the track that everyone should take a listening to. Written about the small town that Hugh is from, he sings about how Butternut will forever hold a lasting impact on him, no matter where he might be. As the perfect rugged country song, the ode to the Wisconsin town not only shows where Hugh Bob & The Hustle are from, but also that no matter what, they will never forget their roots.

Hugh Bob & The Hustle could not have come at a better time, with a first album that is as strong as this one, don’t be surprised if you hear about them in the near future. With experience and craftsmanship in their arsenal, this small town band is well on their way to the top. - Stitched Sound

"Hugh Bob and The Hustle: The TVD First Date"

“I remember a very specific time as an adolescent when records, tapes and CDs all had their own sections of my local music store. Deciding between the three musical mediums was extremely confusing, and often limited to genre specifications (as if puberty wasn’t already hard enough). I was attracted to the physical size of records, but new releases were often pricey. And I never thought that CDs would truly catch on. Tapes became my preferred aural delivery method; cheap and they’d play in my General Electric boom box.”

“Spending a lot of time in the basement, I slowly started to creep my father’s record collection. It was a standard “dad” collection, featuring plenty of Doors, Moody Blues, Jim Croce, and Simon & Garfunkel…all things that were not very exciting to a 6th grader who just saw Nirvana play on TV. Then, I found a copy of Molly Hatchet’s Flirtin’ With Disaster. Never actually hearing the band before, I remember thinking that my dad was a secret hesher, based off of the album cover alone. I had to hear this!

After a couple of seconds into side A, I was convinced that the record in the jacket was not the correct match. I kept looking at the cover while listening, getting frustrated that there was no mention of warlocks, death angels, and danger. So, I did what any normal kid would do–buy another Molly Hatchet album to see if their earlier records sounded anymore like their album covers.

Fooled a second time, I decided to return to the record store and attempt to make an exchange…and then Iron Maiden’s “Number of the Beast” caught my eye and my lifelong love affair with heavy metal records began.

With age comes musical discovery, and my growing record collection continues to benefit from such.

These days, vinyl records are the really the only medium that I spend money on, much less even consider spending money on. I try to DJ a couple of times a month which feeds my record shopping addiction by forcing me to have new stuff to play out.

Just a week ago, I found myself up at 4 in the morning bidding on a Jay-Z acapella 12? single, due to the badass rare artwork. Some things never change.”
—Justin Krol, Hugh Bob & The Hustle - The Vinyl District

"Video: Hugh Bob & The Hustle – Butternut"

Milwaukee-based North Country* purveyors Hugh Bob & The Hustle have released a stunning video for their latest single Butternut.

The clip depicts a forlorn small town with the scattered remnants of better days. The camera slowly and somberly observes the desolation, but by the end a sense of hope emerges…

Hugh Bob & The Hustle are led by singer-songwriter Hugh Robert Masterson who grew up in the song’s namesake of Butternut, Wisconsin – a quaint but fading small town with decrepit mills, dirt roads, farms, beat-down bars and a population of just 300 people.

Masterson says: “It’s the kind of place where the silence is deafening and the stars are so bright you can feel nothing but humbled.”

Masterson previously cut his teeth playing bass with Sub Pop indie darlings Jaill and acclaimed roots rockers The Wildbirds before deciding to step out as a singer-songwriter. His music has garnered favorable comparisons to Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, John Prine, Alan Jackson and Dwight Yoakam.

* According to the Hugh Bob & The Hustle bio: “Masterson’s blend of hard luck stories and backwoods whimsy with crisp twang, high lonesome harmonies, and heartland rock’n’roll is an aesthetic called North Country. It’s similar in spirit to country in its earnestness and its ties to American folk traditions, but details the plight of folks up North.” (We’re assuming they don’t mean Huddersfield.) - Classic Rock Magazine (UK)

"Milwaukee Music Video: See Hugh Bob and the Hustle's treatment of "Butternut""

Local alt country band Hugh Bob and the Hustle filmed the music video for its first single, "Butternut," in frontman Hugh Masterson's hometown of the same name. Photo by Kristyna Wentz-Graff.

When Hugh Masterson segued from the guitar rock of the Wildbirds for alt country twang of his own group, Hugh Bob and the Hustle, he turned to his hometown of Butternut, Wisconsin, population 300, for songwriting inspiration.

So for the band's first music video, for the single named after Masterson's hometown, director CJ Foeckler went back to the source, resulting in a handsomly shot video depicting the rural charms and grit of Butternut.

See the video, which premiered on, below...and you can see the band perform at Summerfest July 5. - The Journal Sentinel

"Hugh Bob & The Hustle: Leaked Tracks"

Leaked Tracks - Country Fried Rock

"PREMIERE: Watch Hugh Bob & the Hustle's Music Video For Single "Butternut""

Hugh Bob & the Hustle are premiering their music video for their single "Butternut" today exclusively on PureVolume. Directed by CJ Foeckler, the video longs for a better yesterday, taking the audience through a reminiscing visual tour of remants of the past of the band's hometown of Butternut, Wisconsin—a fading town of just 300.

“It’s the kind of place where the silence is deafening and the stars are so bright you can feel nothing but humbled,” explains singer/songwriter Hugh Robert Masterson.

Hugh Bob & the Hustle is currently on the road in support of their debut, full-length, self-titled album, available now.

Hugh Bob & the Hustle Tour Dates
Wed, May 8 – Kobo – Columbus, OH
Fri, May 10 – The 5 Spot – Nashville, TN
Tues, May 14 – Southgate House – Newport, KY
Wed, May 15 – The Double Door – Chicago, IL
Thurs, May 23 – Meyer Theatre – Green Bay, WI Free show?
Fri, May 24 – Turf Club – St. Paul, MN
Sat, Jun 15 – Jersey Street Music Festival – Horicon, WI
Fri, Jun 28 – Country USA Music Festival After Party – Oshkosh, WI
Sat, Jul 5 – Summerfest – Milwaukee, WI - purevolume

"Play It Forward - Hugh Bob & The Hustle"

Country music is an intensely confusing genre of music. It's easy for someone to say "I hate country music" these days, because when most people think of country music, it's the Taylor Swifts, Dierks Bentleys and Blake Sheltons that they're more than likely speaking of. I'll be the first to tell you: modern popular "country" music is the pits.

Having said that, the page is turning on country music, and labels are snatching up artists like The Lumineers, Father John Misty, and Alabama Shakes, who all have deep country music influences. Not coincidentally, these artists have all released albums this year that will be gracing many Top Ten lists from many of my journalist colleagues.

Enter: Hugh Bob & The Hustle.

Already a pseudo-legend here in Milwaukee, Hugh Masterson has been a critical part of the city's music scene for some time now, most recently as the bassist for an act called The Wildbirds, who were a local favorite of many people in the city. After the split of The Wildbirds, Masterson decided to take the role of frontman and focus on song writing. The result is the debut effort of Hugh Bob & The Hustle, a self-titled, full-length album.

The album is a healthy length, with 11 songs coming in at around 40 minutes total play time. The songs seem to be very therapeutic and autobiographical for Masterson, while still managing to sound like old fashioned, northern folklore-based country songs. The album's lead off song, "Ashland County" is named for the actual county Hugh Bob himself hails from, while "Milwaukee Man" pays homage to his current city of residence. Other standout tracks include the uptempo "Blame Me" and the catchy "Passenger Side" which features a hefty amount of giddy organ parts.

It's difficult to describe Hugh Bob's debut album as anything but traditional, but by no means is it generic; the songs get a little hokey at times (for example "This Bars A Prison"), but that's not saying that they're stale. Even when the lyrics illicit a smirk, the melodies prove to be overcoming and incredibly enjoyable.

A noteworthy element to the album is the guest stars, which include Nathaniel Markman (violinist, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros), Jon Graboff (guitar/slide-guitar, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals) and Nashville-based singer Nikki Lane all contribute to songs on the album.

The album is definitely worth checking out, which you can do at the band's Soundcloud page, and you can take a listen to the track "Blame Me" below. - Fake Plastic Tunes

"Hugh Bob and The Hustle"

Since leaving the rural climes of northern Wisconsin for the relative big-city charms of Milwaukee, Hugh Masterson has done time with a number of successful and semi-successful local bands, most notably Bosio and The Wildbirds. But with the former long gone and the latter currently on hold, Masterson has been focusing on fronting his latest project, the country-fied Hugh Bob And The Hustle. On the group’s self-titled debut album, Masterson—along with Nicholas Stuart, Quinn Scharber, Bradley Kruse, and Justin Krol—trades the swagger and strut of The Wildbirds for breezy country ditties, thick harmonies, and the occasional barn-burning rave-up. It’s a warm, affectionate collection of straight-up AM country gold.
Clearly autobiographical, Hugh Bob could easily be read as a Masterson origin story of sorts. Somber, pedal-steel-drenched opener “Ashland County” conjures up life in one of Wisconsin’s most far-flung regions, full of dirt roads, aging homecoming queens, and broken-down pickups. “North Country” offers a more up-tempo take on small-town life, complete with a thundering chorus custom-built for a booze-soaked tavern shout-along. It isn’t until the twangy “Milwaukee Man” that Masterson leaves the country behind and moves to the city, resulting in one of the album’s strongest songs that practically begs to be used as the city’s unofficial anthem.
While a few tracks like “Passenger Side” hew too close to the alt-country cheese of The Wallflowers, Hugh Bob is at its best when it hits the town and pounds a few shots. “Blame Me” is a winning foot-stomper, “This Bar’s A Prison” is a bawdy shit-kicker about getting hammered and “drinking like my old man,” and “My Truck Feels Like Driving” (another song with a welcome lyrical nod to Wisconsin) benefits from a terrific guest vocal from Nashville’s Nikki Lane. But it’s “Mess With Me” that serves as the album’s thesis statement: “My band’s playing country, nobody better mess with me,” sings Masterson, almost daring the city to lose itself in his group’s sincere and refreshingly un-ironic sound. If this debut is any indication, that shouldn’t be a problem. - A.V. Club

"Hugh Bob and the Hustle's Pure Country"

Nobody would claim that Milwaukee doesn't have a fondness for American music. Spend a week or two going to shows in Bay View, Riverwest or on the East Side, and you'll witness a wide variety of local Americana, folk, folk-rock, roots-rock and alt-country. What you probably won't find in these tent poles of the local music scene, though, is any actual country—or at least not the twangy, radio-friendly form of country that Hugh Masterson heard seemingly everywhere during his childhood in rural Ashland County.

"I grew up about 10 miles from town, surrounded by dirt roads, in a town of about 300, where we all went to the same building from K-12," Masterson recalls. "Up there people socialized either at potlucks or at the bar. You'd go to the bar with your parents to get a burger and then sit there forever. So even if there wasn't a lot of country in our household, we heard it all the time on the jukeboxes there. They all had Conway Twitty, Alan Jackson, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Merle Haggard or Waylon Jennings."

Masterson didn't make much of Milwaukee's dearth of country when he first moved to the city. Instead he settled into the local scene, playing with the earliest incarnation of Jaill ("even though the music wasn't necessarily my thing") and then touring with the punk band Bosio ("that definitely wasn't my thing") before joining the rock band The Wildbirds ("that was my thing at the time, but I wasn't writing the songs"). When Masterson decided to begin writing his own songs—something he'd wanted to do for some time, but had been dragging his feet on—it only made sense that he would draw from the music he'd been exposed to the most during his formative years.

Hugh Bob and the Hustle began as something of a trial by fire, with Masterson committing to the project before he'd even finished more than a song or two. "I did that on purpose," he says. "I would tell everybody around me, even people that I didn't know, that I was starting a country band. I figured if I told everybody I was going to do this, then I couldn't puss out. It was my way of forcing myself to follow through."

The transition was ultimately smoother than he could have expected. Around the same time that Masterson began scratching his songwriting itch, The Wildbirds were losing steam. The band's gear had been stolen twice in one year, and they'd stopped writing new material as a result. Fellow Wildbirds Nicholas Stuart, Bradley Kruse and Quinn Scharber were looking for a change, too, it seemed, so they signed on to join Masterson's band, along with drummer Justin Krol. The group stops just short of officially declaring The Wildbirds done for good—perhaps wisely, given how The Wildbirds have risen from the ashes before—but for now Hugh Bob and the Hustle is their lone concern.

Already the new group has been able to do what few Milwaukee bands have ever done: make honest-to-god country seem appealing to even some of the East Side's most country-averse audiences. And they've done it by playing without a trace of ironic detachment. Hugh Bob and the Hustle's self-titled debut doesn't pander to the fixed-gear and craft-cocktail set. It's an unapologetic, honky-tonk-heavy set of tunes about hard drinking and pickup-truck worship, and it wears its twang as a badge of honor. "I don't care if you're from Texas, I don't care if you're from Tennessee / From the Midwest playing north country," Masterson sings. "My band's playing country, nobody better mess with me."

"A lot of the songs were just inspired by sitting at the bar, cataloging all the old sayings and funny things I'd overhear," Masterson explains. "I have a friend who would get drunk at the bar and yell out things like, 'This bar is a prison!,' or, 'Let's get drunk and make bad decisions!,' and I'd think, 'That's a song.' Everybody can relate to that; we all know when we've had a few too many and it's time to go home. For the most part, in my songs, I'm just telling stories, because I think that's what country is. The thing with rock 'n' roll is you can shake your ass to it, but there's no story. With country, you can shake your ass to it, too, but there's a story there behind it all." - Shepard Express

"High Class Hillbilly Party Feat. Jonny Fritz, Little Bandit, Hugh Bob and the Hustle and Promised Land, 9/1/12"

Out-of-towners Hugh Bob and the Hustle followed Promised Land, apparently landing the gig after opening for Lane at The Basement the night before — and then raking her lawn and fixing her fence (that’s some real Tom Sawyer shit right there). We can’t help but be naturally suspicious of outlanders appropriating traditionally Southern music, but Milwaukee’s Hugh Bob avoided the pitfalls of the derivative Mumford and Sons bro-grass that has been invading our country by being charmingly sincere. Hugh Bob and the Hustle’s rootsy skiffle-inspired tunes came off as being authentically farm-raised, but with the same sort of Stonesy blues rock that found its way into Promised Land’s set. - Nashville Scene


TBA EP - 2015 Session - June 6, 2013
Hugh Bob and The Hustle - Hugh Bob and The Hustle (Album) 2012



Singer-songwriter Hugh Robert Masterson grew up in Butternut, Wisconsin - a quaint but fading small town with decrepit mills, dirt roads, farms, beat down bars, and a population of 300. Its the kind of place where the silence is deafening and the stars are so bright you can feel nothing but humbled, says Masterson. His band Hugh Bob and The Hustle and their masterful self-titled debut album brings to life this slice of classic Americana with ruggedly poetic lyrics and sweetly winsome roots rock.

Mastersons blend of hard luck stories and backwoods whimsy with crisp twang, high lonesome harmonies, and heartland rock n roll is an aesthetic called North Country. Its similar in spirit to country in its earnestness and its ties to American folk traditions, but details the plight of folks up North. Masterson has garnered favorable comparisons to Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, John Prine, Alan Jackson, and Dwight Yoakam. A.V. Club Milwaukee praises his debut as: a warm, affectionate collection of straight-up AM country gold. Rocksposure gushes Hugh Bob never strikes an inauthentic note.The Nashville Scene says: We cant help but be naturally suspicious of outlanders appropriating traditionally Southern music, but Milwaukees Hugh Bob avoided the pitfalls of the derivative Mumford & Sons bro-grass that has been invading our country by being charmingly sincere.

After apprenticing as a sideman bassist, most notably with indie darlings Jaill and acclaimed roots rockers The Wildbirds, Masterson recently decided to step out as a singer-songwriter. The 11 songs on his debut are the first hes ever written. I just felt like I was finally ready to release something, he says, assessing his latent creativity. It was a confidence thing, I was afraid of putting my heart into something and people not liking it.

Through his stories, and those of Butternut, Masterson has crafted a tender and truthful album. Im attracted to realness, he says. The natural reality of how hard life is doesnt go unnoticed where Im from. The stunning Ashland County, rich with golden harmonies and mournful and shimmering pedal steel guitar, is a poignant snapshot of a crumbling small town. Thats about where I grew up, its depressed, theres not much there anymore, Masterson says. His voice is sweetly pristine and vulnerable as he sings: Rivers spillin' over/Bars burnin' down/Now they're planting flowers, all over town Got high on Joint Road/In between the farms/Now they're all gone, and the mill is shuttin' down. The gritty Americana of Butternut mixes quaint nostalgia with powerful social commentary. Here, with raw emotionality, Masterson sings: I come from a long line of drinkers and boozers, gamblers, we're all losers where I'm from/Days go by but no one's ever leaving/No matter how hard I try this town's got a hold on me/Got a hold on me. Rounding out the album are the cheeky This Bar Is A Prison and Mess With Me, rowdy good time numbers with quicksilver twang and shit kicking humor.

Live and on record Masterson is aptly backed by The Hustle, a band of friends with telepathic interplay and a unique approach to American roots music. The Hustle is Quinn Scharber, guitar/vocals; Nicholas Stuart, bass/vocals; Bradley Kruse, keys/vocals; and Justin Krol, drums. Masterson and Stuart played together back in The Wildbirds (along with Scharber and Kruse), with Masterson playing a supportive role for Stuarts singer-songwriter vision. In the Hustle, Stuart returns the favor. I've known Hugh for 7 years, and he's always had song scraps in his pocket. Never a complete song, says Nicholas Stuart. But when he pulled out the basic structures of Blame Me and Red, White & Blue Jeans, I jumped at the chance to be a part of it. He has a great way of putting the listener in a place that he is, or a place that he's been. And he just really cares for the song, down to a single lyric. That's something that impresses me every time.

Masterson is currently gigging actively with The Hustle, building a strong live profile with their vibrantly authentic musicality, impassioned sincerity, and downhome exuberance. I remember playing that first show. I had done all this stuff to prove myself. I was sitting there in the basement of the venue and I was so nervous I wanted to run away, he says. But when I got onstage, the adrenaline from the peoples response made it all feel so worthwhile.

Band Members