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The Real Thing

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Album Review

When you entitle your debut disc The Real Thing, you're inviting shots to be taken at you. Rodney Hayden, however, clearly shows that he is the genuine article. Although just out of his teens, Hayden has a voice that is mature for his years. It's a strong, slightly grainy Texas twang that projects an authoritative sense of a man who knows his way around a honky tonk. Hayden's knowing performance of the Chip Taylor-penned title track makes it sound like he actually lived in the days of crewcuts and Elvis Presley that the song references. His rendition boasts a robust and real quality that is all but absent in glossy Nashville fare. Similarly, his version of Tom Waits' "I Hope That I Don't Fall in Love With You," although lacking the original's saloon atmospherics, convincingly conveys the song's bittersweet romanticism. Besides deftly handling a quartet of covers (the other ones being Billy Joe Shavers' "Black Rose" and Robbie Fulks' "Tears Only Run One Way"), Hayden also displays a talent for songwriting. The Texas dancehall tune "Heartaches and Highway" recalls the work of Robert Earl Keen, on whose label Hayden records. "You Don't Talk I Don't Listen" sounds like a honky tonk tune Buck Owens would have had a hit with years ago, while the railroad-themed "Mighty Lonesome Sound" suggests Wayne Hancock but without all of his retro trappings. "December Rose," however, stands as the disc's premier original number. This heartfelt ballad (co-written with his bassist/collaborator, Bill Whitbeck) about an old man's love for his late wife again displays Hayden's impressive "wise beyond his years" songwriting. While Nashville kingpin Tony Brown, one of the disc's producers along with Texans Clay Blaker and Rich Brotherton, has suggested that Hayden's music might be too country for country radio, he is a fine antidote for those hankering for real country music.

Biography

Born: 26 February 1980 in Pleasanton, TX

Genre: Country

Years Active: '00s

Texan Rodney Hayden made waves with critics upon his debut release for his authentic country sound that harkened back to an earlier era. Growing up with access to his father's large and diverse record collection, Hayden was drawn to Merle Haggard and George Jones. He began performing on the honky tonk scene around his hometown of Pleasanton while still in his teens, putting together his first band as a high school senior and putting together demos. A demo landed in the hands of fellow Texas musician...
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The Real Thing, Rodney Hayden
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