Huck's perseverance pays off
by John O'Neill
The inside of Vincent's is drab, even though both the doors to the street and
the back patio are open to allow in what little light the sky affords, but
there can be no doubting at this point that the clouds will stay -- it's
officially a crummy day. Scott Ricciuti, Huck's guitarist frontman and chief
songwriter, sits quietly in his chair and strokes the hair on his chin. Bassist
Dave Robinson has excused himself to take a leak and order up another round of
beer as Ricciuti carefully, after much reflection, attempts to answer the
question he'd previously sidestepped: why Huck's new CD, Honeywagon,
continually deals with the theme of redemption and a chance at starting over
"There were a lot of things going on when I wrote this album: things about me,
all my stuff, the band situation, things left over from getting divorced
. . . about drinking too much," he says with a wry smile and waving
gesture toward his glass. "It's all about me and things I don't like about me,
about mixing them up and changing them around."
Since first appearing on the local scene as a member of Childhood in the
mid-'80s, Ricciuti has had his share of disappointment and unfulfilled dreams.
From winning the 1987 WBCN Rock & Roll Rumble with Childhood, only to be
slagged the very next day in the papers by almost all the Boston music critics,
to losing out in the finals of the 1995 WBRU Rock Hunt, which later turned out
to be rigged, to Huck's inability to maintain a solid line-up over the past two
years, he has continued to pay his dues.
With the release of Huck's sophomore effort, Honeywagon (Orcaphat),
Ricciuti's 15 years of toil have seemingly paid off in the form of an album
that not only re-establishes the band as one of the region's best acts, but
one in which Ricciuti finally delivers the great pop album that until now
eluded him. With Childhood, the songs suffered from an overwrought pretense,
à la U2-style anthems and the first Huck album, My Boy Joe,
while sneaking glimpses of his true voice, ultimately suffered from
a strong case of the Cobains. All this changes with Honeywagon, where
Ricciuti finally steps out from the shadow of his influences to author an album
of indelible pop music that stands firmly on its own merit.
"I'm at this point in my life where I'm writing what's in my head," he
elaborates. "When I was 23, I wanted to be successful and write a popular
song. Now I write 'cause I enjoy it; it's what I want to do. I tried writing
prose, but I'm too lazy and a pop song is the next best thing."
Engineered and produced by local guru Roger Lavallee, Honeywagon flexes
the pop muscle that was only hinted at with My Boy Joe as Huck unhitch
themselves from the alterna-bandwagon and head for a more tuneful pasture.
Smoothed out, but still full-blare, Honeywagon offers a more poised,
mature sound. Ricciuti wraps his frayed vocals around stories of self-doubt,
self-examination, and, occasionally, self-loathing. And while these are all
common topics in rock music, what sets Huck apart from their contemporaries is
the willingness to stare unflinchingly into the mirror for the answers to the
angst. More than a collection of songs, Honeywagon is a definitive
coming-of-age piece for the band; for Ricciuti, it's a release that establishes
him as a formidable pop songwriter.
"The funny thing is when I joined Huck, Scott didn't want to release the
album," says Robinson, who played with Black Rose Garden before signing up for
bass duty, after Honeywagon's studio tracks were completed. (Founding
drummer Dan Lucas rounds out the trio.) "I couldn't believe it, it was a
"We couldn't decide if it was brilliant or it sucked," says Ricciuti. "I
really hated it for a while, but now it's okay. I like it."
Things finally appear to be going Huck's way. Robinson has fit into the mix
like a long-lost brother, Orcaphat Records has the band inked to a three-album
deal and has aggressively pushed the current release. At least one major label
and a publishing house have shown solid interest in the group. Could it be that
success is ready to shake hands with Ricciuti after all this time?
"My expectations are so low," he says as the gray afternoon begins to give way
to dusk. "If things take off that's great. With Childhood, I was a younger kid
who stood there, a guy who wanted to be a rock star instead of a guy who wanted
to write songs.
"We still want to believe we're in the game. That may be sad that we still
believe, but I'm not gonna give up."