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Ronnie Hayward

The Lost Utrecht Sessions... – 2000 (HayByrd)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

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CDs by Ronnie Hayward

Inspiration can turn up at the least likely time or place. So is the case for Canadian rockabilly singer/bassist Ronnie Hayward. Pulling together Dutch friends on several different European tours, he's cut a stellar album that revels in rockabilly from slide guitar sounds of the Delta to hillbilly train calls to dance beats from early rhythm 'n' blues.

The recording is a throw-back to a time when the producer's job was to capture the players sound on tape, rather than shape it. If not for the legend noting these sessions took place in 1999, one would really wonder if they weren't truly "lost" from the mid-'50's; the vitality of the sound literally leaps from the speakers and demands the listener's attention. Hayward's vocals retain the urgency of his rockabilly recordings, but his songwriting and playing extends across 16 originals that reflect more on the lost loves of country and blues than the first inklings of rockabilly infatuation. His singing has the same sort of experience found in Dave Alvin's post-Blasters work, and with harmony help from Erik Van Beek, he lights up "Let the Rain Come Fallin'" with a stirring Bakersfield harmony.

The Dutch players are uniformly excellent. Beek's steel and dobro (especially on blues like "When You Get Back" and "601 Blue") and Arnold Lasseur's mandolin are quite moving. Likewise guitarist Kees Stiger's chicken pickin' and tic-tac playing propels several tunes.

This is the sort of seamless blend of blues, hillbilly and rock'n' roll that was made before the seams were created in the first place.