Country music has many ‘sub-genres’ – country rock is one of the most developed of these. But even within country rock there are categories: ‘bro country’, for example, is, lyrically and musically, a long way away from the sort of country rock that tells stories that belong within the country canon but which are classified rock because they have a different time signature to other country songs and use a few more guitars.
Bryan Hayes plays country rock of the latter kind. The Memphis resident tells stories of country lives and country scenes – the second song, ‘Small Town Amazing Grace’, has the line ‘In a small town, life seems right’, and Hayes sings it with conviction tinged with weariness, although no lack of sincerity. It’s a combination of emotions that marks many of the songs on this album. Perhaps that has to do with Hayes’s own story: he was deployed to Iraq in 2009 and 2010, which forced him to take a break from music.
Hayes’s songs aren’t rock songs, but they have that satisfying rock beat (anyone who loves rock music – as I do – will know what I mean by that and it’s related to how easily one’s head can nod along to a beat). That makes this album really easy to slip into: toes will tap and heads will nod before you’re even at the first chorus. What will keep you coming back is the stories. Some are straightforward, and some are playful, as on the song ‘Our Love is Like a Tractor Tire’, which has a more traditional honky tonk sound.
This is a well-rounded collection from a singer-songwriter who has things to say and who can say them articulately and in an entertaining way without being a lightweight. That’s quite a balance to achieve.
Farther Down the Line is out now through Retriever Records.
Find Bryan Hayes on Facebook.