Wade Hayes was one of the more underrated of the 90s neotraditionalists, scoring only six top 10 hits in his career. I always liked his melancholy-tinged voice, and I was pleased to find he has released his first album in nine years. It’s very much an independent effort, with Wade writing or co-writing almost all the material and playing acoustic and electric guitar, and Wade has released it himself.
It opens a little disappointingly with ‘Good Day To Go Crazy’. The song itself (co-written with Jerry Salley and Jenny Farrell, both of whom contribute backing vocals on the album) is fine, as the protagonist suggests he and his woman take a break from everyday life, but Wade’s voice is too low in the mix. Luckily, things pick up immediately with the charming ‘The Best Part’, written with Michael White and Carson Chamberlain, although the production is a bit heavier-handed than I would like. Wade offers some cogent advice from his father in the aftermath of a failed marriage:
“Something special grows when two people know
They won’t run when things get hard
If you only want the good time
You’re gonna miss the best part.”
White also worked with Wade on the despairing plea to God, ‘What’s A Broken Heart To You’, which I really like, although I would have preferred a more stripped-down production without the electric guitar solo. Better-sounding, although breaking no new ground lyrically, is the tender ‘God Made Me (To Love You)’, which Wade wrote with Trent Jeffcoat and Roger Springer. Springer also wrote (with Ward Davis and Wade) the bouncy ‘Right Where I Want You’ as a former commitment-phobe gets well and truly caught by a woman “smart enough for the both of us”, who has got him “right where I want you all the time”. Equally entertaining is the cheery western swing of ‘Every Time I Give The Devil A Ride’, written with Jerry Salley and Jim McBride, with its metaphorical look at giving in to temptation.
Earlier this decade, Wade was briefly working as one half of a duo called McHayes, and his partner in that venture, Mark McClurg, wrote the charming ‘She Knows Me’, a grateful tribute to the woman who loves him even so, laden with fiddle and steel. Traditional country heartbreak-style makes an appearance with a co-write with Chick Rains, ‘I Wouldn’t Know’, painting a sad picture of a man who can’t get over the woman who left him. He asks, with evident pain, and perhaps a little bitterly:
“How does it feel to say goodbye
And not look back with a tear in your eye?
I wouldn’t know
I wake up every morning
With an empty feeling deep down in my soul
I still think of you and lose control
Lettin’ go must be nice
But I wouldn’t know.”
He adds sharply, “I bet it’s great to be so sure of yourself.”
Jerry Salley helped write the title track, another heartbroken standout, as the protagonist realises he’s taken the wrong path in life, having taken refuge in the bottle after his woman left him:
“Now I spend each day just looking for
Some way off this road I’m racing down
Now, Lord, if you’re still listening
I need to find a place to turn around
I know I can’t go on like this
I think of all the life I’ve missed
Numbing myself trying to forget her
The thing that mostly I regret,
When I’ve been drinking to forget
Is about the only thing I can’t remember.
Alongside more obvious choices like Haggard, Frizzell, and Gene Watson, the most unexpected name on Wade’s list of influences on his website is unbridled honky tonker Gary Stewart. Wade covered his ‘She’s Acting Single (I’m Drinking Doubles)’ back in his major-label days on the multi-artist Tribute To Tradition, and on this album he returns to Stewart’s repertoire with the Wayne Carson-penned ‘Drinkin’ Thing’. Wade’s version is more subdued than the original, but the song is strong enough to stand up in its own right.
The only other outside song is the pleasant love song ‘I Want To’, written by Don Cook, Phillip Johnson and Scotty Emerick, which is sincerely delivered.
Overall, this is a very pleasing record, which is growing on me more the more I hear it. It is available from Wade’s website.