Reviewed by Jerry Renshaw, Fri., Oct. 17, 2003
Rodney HaydenLiving the Good Life (Audium) You're definitely setting the bar pretty high for yourself when you're a country singer and you title your first album The Real Thing, like Rodney Hayden did just last year. Barely out of his teens, Hayden comes across as billed, though. He's got a great, confident baritone that sounds like he cut his teeth in the honky-tonks, which is exactly what he did. That said, Living the Good Life evinces a bit of the old sophomore slump. He does justice by Slaid Cleaves' "Broke Down," imparting a proper sense of melancholy to it, and Robert Earl Keen's co-writing help on "Get on Your Mule and Ride" distinguishes it as an album highlight. Other than that, it's mainly Hayden originals here, and he plays it safe with his subject matter: small towns, lovin', cheatin', drinkin'. Players include Redd Volkaert, Earl Poole Ball, producer Rich Brotherton, and Marty Muse on steel, so the playing is, of course, impeccable. The disc's closer, "Son of a Rolling Stone," builds up a head of steam that borders on country rock, while "Can't Wait to Get Back Home'" kicks off with twin fiddles and a beat calling to mind Western swing. It's ironic Rodney Hayden is too country for country radio. Songs on Living the Good Life could change that, though that's not necessarily a good thing.