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Rodney Hayden

Living the Good Life – 2003 (Audium)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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CDs by Rodney Hayden

With this release from young honky tonker Rodney Hayden, Audium adds another release to the junior side of its judicious catalog mix of youth and veteran. This is Hayden's sophomore release-his first was on Robert Earl Keen's Rosetta imprint - and while it doesn't quite reach the mark set by his debut, it's a good 'un nonetheless. Hayden writes (more precisely, co-writes with songwriting partner Bill Whitbeck) a good bit of the material he records, and while his songs often hew to tried-and-true themes (such as "on-the-road-can't-wait-to-get-home-to-my-baby" in the straightforwardly titled "Can't Wait to Get Back Home") he also throws a few curves - "Goodbye to My Hometown," for example, paints small town leaving as a complicated thing, neither simply good nor bad.

Hayden also makes interesting choices when he looks elsewhere - last time out, he covered Robbie Fulks and Tom Waits; here, he does justice to Slaid Cleaves' "Broke Down," and Russell Smith's "Delia's Long Brown Hair" (which features some nice baritone guitar courtesy of producer and supporting player Rich Brotherton). Add other touches like the perfect sweetening provided by the strings on the languid swing of "Mr. Mockingbird" and Danny Barnes' insistent banjo on the hard-driving "Son of a Rolling Stone," and the end result is an album of deceptively simple, well-crafted country music.