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Rodney Hayden

Down the Road – 2007 (Self-released)

Reviewed by Don Armstrong

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CDs by Rodney Hayden

This is straight-ahead Texas country music, on down to the individuality that prompted Rodney Hayden to write or co-write every song. A tight sound, rich in fiddle, steel and mandolin with a driving beat, complements Hayden's distinctive voice. If that voice seems to emanate from somewhere around his Adam's apple, consider that that places the source close to his heart. Hayden doesn't lack for sincerity. Edge may be another matter.

The subjects of his pen don't stray far from the Texas catalogue, as illustrated by the song titles: "Down the Road," "Nuevo Laredo," "I'll Ride Again," "After the Sun Goes Down" (co-written by Robert Earl Keen and Bill Whitbeck). On "These Arms," a classic heartache song, Sunny Sweeney's twangy soprano overshadows Hayden's smooth tenor, a consequence, perhaps, of his holding all the reigns.

Hayden also co-produces, and that may be his best work here on a consistently solid disc. What it lacks in real hooks is made up for, to a degree, by catchy lines like "If love were easy everybody'd be in it," from "Lonely Day." Of course, if everybody sang like George Jones, a "A Good Year for the Roses" wouldn't be so special.