Down the Road
First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2007, Volume 14, #4
Written by John Metzger
Five years after earning heaps of critical praise for his debut The Real Thing, Rodney Hayden remains a relatively anonymous figure in country music. Not unlike the countless other Texas-born songwriters who have come before him, including his mentor Robert Earl Keen, Hayden seems destined to attract nothing more than a cult-like following, which he garners person-by-person via his relentless touring schedule. Caught in his own paradox, he concocts music that is too indebted to the classics for mainstream country radio to touch and too country-oriented for rock ínĎ roll stations to embrace. For those who have heard him perform, however, his sturdy, if not exactly groundbreaking, craftsmanship also is too good to ignore.
On Down the Road, his first album since 2004ís Living the Good Life, Hayden once again settles comfortably into his Texas roots. The title track opens the affair with a drum beat that pays tribute to Buddy Holly before the song diverges into an amiable country-rock ode to Haydenís transient lifestyle, while the subsequent It Goes by too Fast finds him reflecting upon his past without regret. Elsewhere, fiddles dance (Iíll Ride Again) and pedal steel guitars weep wistfully (Itís Been Awhile) as he paints portraits of excursions to Mexico (Nuevo Laredo), quests for love (Lonely Day), fast-living cowboys (Silverado Boys), and the solitary existence of the homeless (Midnight in Memphis).
Thereís little doubt that Down the Road is filled with material that is well suited to the roadside bars and honky-tonk saloons in which Hayden frequently performs, and despite the polish of its production, the effort retains the energetic drive of his concerts. As his melodic sensibility combines with his exuberant delivery, it becomes impossible not to wonder why no one knows who he is. Such is the sad state of country music these days, but with a little luck and a lot of perseverance, Hayden just might find a way of carving out his own niche. Ĺ
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box