It is risky to entitle your debut "The Real Thing" as Texan Rodney Hayden has done unless you're ready, willing and able to live up to the words. In Hayden's case, he is more than up to the task in this 11-song set of two-steppers and honky tonkers.
Hayden maybe considered a mix of Robert Earl Keen (not exactly a surprise considering he was executive producer and provides management) and Gary Allan with more of an emphasis on the latter who he resembles vocally. In fact, many of the songs sound like they could easily have been turned in by Allan.
Hayden mixes his own co-writes with strong covers of Billy Joe Shaver's "Black Rose" and Robbie Fulks' "Tears Only Run One Way" among others. On Chip Taylor's title track, Hayden does a far better job than George Strait did on his new disc. A strong set of backing musicians including folks like guitarist Rich Brotherton, whioh helped produce, lap steel man Marty Muse and fiddler Larry Franklin help out. Hayden did not seem to suffer from having three producers, including fellow Texan Clay Blaker and Nashville record exec Tony Brown. Actually the disc was considered "too country" for Nashville, not a surprise.
Hayden may not be exactly groundbreaking, but when it comes to putting out a winning set of honky tonk music, Hayden is indeed the real thing.