On the strength of his tongue-in-check song â€œParts Sold Separatelyâ€, Hayesâ€™ 2004 Just a Man became an award-winning album (Parts Sold Separately and Soundtrack won Memphis Songwriter â€œSong of the Yearâ€ awards). The demo EP I Want You Bad followed in 2005, and saw the formation of Hayesâ€™ 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. â€œThe original title was going to be I Want You Bad. And it was very much going to be a full-band, rock record.â€ Line-up changes at the eleventh hour forced Hayes to re-evaluate arrangements and song production. â€œI remember Shannon and I hastily writing â€œI Donâ€™t Need Youâ€ in the studio,â€ says Hayes. â€œAfter that, a lot of the songs became more stripped down.â€
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 (â€œI Want You Badâ€, â€œCome On Get Highâ€), yet still left room for emotional weight and clever word play (â€œHappy Shade of Blueâ€, â€œI Donâ€™t Need Youâ€).
â€œI 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,â€ said Hayes. And a brilliant concept of hope, love, and rock and roll he has created. From the angelic choruses on â€œLong Hard Roadâ€ and â€œGive a Little Loveâ€ to the crying steel on â€œLand of the Freeâ€, 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 wonâ€™t be near as hard.
Check out the artist's website:
1. Hatchie Bottom Waltz
2. Long Hard Road
3. The Bird & The Rose
4. Land of the Free
5. Carlos' Song
6. Come on Get High
8. I Want You Bad
9. Break These Chains
10. When'd It All Go Wrong (The Nashville Song)
11. I Don't Need You
12. Call On Me
13. Better Days
15. Give a Little Love
16. Happy Shade of Blue