Long Hard Road
Singer/songwriter Bryan Hayes' music has long reflected the musical passions that inspired him growing up in small town Brownsville, TN. From his debut album Just a Man to the demo EP I Want You Bad and the new studio album Long Hard Road, Hayes has continued to explore his passion and define his distinctive voice. With Long Hard Road, Hayes has both turned up the volume and subdued the mood, reminiscent of Petty's Wildflowers or The Beatles White Album. On the strength of his tongue-in-check song "Parts Sold Separately", Hayes' 2004 Just a Man became an award-winning album (Parts Sold Separately and Soundtrack won Memphis Songwriter "Song of the Year" awards). The demo EP I Want You Bad followed in 2005, and saw the formation of Hayes' band The Retrievers, which included co-writer Shannon Cooke and keyboardist Gee Brannon. Long Hard Road is very much a concept album: sixteen tracks of well-crafted and well-layered emotion. It has both a charming rock side and a vulnerable acoustic side. For Hayes making the album was indeed a long, hard road. "The original title was going to be I Want You Bad. And it was very much going to be a full-band, rock record." Line-up changes at the eleventh hour forced Hayes to re-evaluate arrangements and song production. "I remember Shannon and I hastily writing "I Don't Need You" in the studio," says Hayes. "After that, a lot of the songs became more stripped down." Hayes once again entered the studio with engineer Kevin Cubbins (Augustine, Cory Brannan, Snowglobe, The Glass) and rhythm section John Hargroves and Mark Stewart (The Secret Service, The Lights). This combination of studio all-stars and regular band members created gritty rockers ("I Want You Bad", "Come On Get High"), yet still left room for emotional weight and clever word play ("Happy Shade of Blue", "I Don't Need You"). "I knew from early on in the writing process that this was going to be a concept album. Because of this, the placement of individual songs and transitions became extremely important," said Hayes. And a brilliant concept of hope, love, and rock and roll he has created. From the angelic choruses on "Long Hard Road" and "Give a Little Love" to the crying steel on "Land of the Free", Hayes proves his lyrical style belongs in the striking company of John Prine, Lyle Lovett, and Robert Earl Keen. Long Hard Road continues the journey Bryan Hayes embarked upon when he left the cover bars of Memphis, to focus on writing honest, soul-bearing music. Hayes is much wiser for the times, and his lyrics carry a new maturity. This album will raise ears, rattle cages, and recruit new faces. The road will still be long for Bryan Hayes and The Retrievers, but after this album, it won't be near as hard.