Rodney Hayden

SXSW records

Phases and Stages

Rodney Hayden

The Real Thing (Rosetta) Listening to Rodney Hayden's debut The Real Thing, it's surprising that the 22-year-old Pleasanton, Texas, native is even aware of songwriters such as Tom Waits, Billy Joe Shaver, Chip Taylor, and Robbie Fulks. Yet here he is, successfully covering their tunes. Hayden's originals are equally noteworthy, though; famed producer Tony Brown (Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle, Vince Gill, George Strait) showed enough interest to produce three of the The Real Thing's tracks. In fact, Brown was contemplating signing Hayden to MCA before determining that the music was "too country" for radio. While that may be true, it didn't stop Rich Brotherton or Clay Blaker from signing on to produce the rest of the disc, and sonically, the results hang together. Vocally, Hayden recalls Mark Chesnutt, another Texan with a penchant for the traditional sounds of country, and here, the young singer demonstrates that he's capable of crooning a waltz like "December Rose" just as easily as putting across a narrative like Shaver's "Black Rose." The Real Thing bogs down at points, Hayden's originals -- the ballad "I'll Give You Love" for example -- lacking the spark that would set them apart from artists working similar musical territory. But, taken as a whole, it's an impressive first try, marking Hayden as young Texan to watch, even if he is "too country." (Saturday, March 16, Broken Spoke, 11pm)

***

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