Ward Hayden & The Outliers – Free Country
Ward Hayden & the Outliers’ 10-cut Free Country (Independent-Drops Aug 20) is a cohesive set of Americana with excellent musicianship & memorable tunes. The songwriting is expressive – nice stories, well-sung with an emphasis in all the right places (“Shelly Johnson” “Indiana”).
Opening tight with “Nothing To Do (For Real This Time)” has the basic alt-country formula ala The Mavericks, Foster & Lloyd, The Del-Lords (a good thing), & The Brandos (remember them)? Nonetheless, the music has muscle, is well-produced by Eric “Roscoe” Ambel (I’m not surprised – who adds guitars/harmony).
Each song has buoyancy (they don’t sink). The material like so many others released recently, can’t seem to steer clear of the pandemic. This band however takes a different route. They reflect, touch upon the socio-cultural divide in the country. They try to understand it, survive it & most importantly, understand it. The band should be commended for such a risk.
“I’d Die For You,” is dynamic. A hat-tip to the drive of The Del-Lords (“Dream Come True”). This Ward Hayden cut is like an anthem. Musicianship sparkles, production is stellar. Excellent from the start. It never lets up. Neither does their other jewels: “Bad Time (To Quit Drinkin’)” & the atmospheric rocker “When the Hammer Falls.”
The PR says they’re concerned with the many different people working to push the boundaries (there’s a good song title “Working to Push the Boundaries”), of what’s real, what’s factual, what’s actual, what’s the truth. But when you have some citizens follow the opinion or dictum that just because something is a fact doesn’t make it true – I question logic. And when logic is questioned – that’s scary. Perception too – it’s about the creation of one’s own reality. Misguided? Possibly.
But the truth can’t be bent even if you lie to yourself. So many prefer to believe things when they’ve been embellished. That too doesn’t make it any truer. This CD makes declarations. Suggestions that listeners who care to explore each line can see what’s real & what isn’t. Maybe they’ll get something from it, as Ward states. But unfortunately, I’m of the opinion that no one does. Few take the time to verify, substantiate, research to find the truth. Some do…many don’t.
But this music sends a powerful message. The lines are not blurred, there is clarity. This fine LP was rehearsed in Fall River, MA (where I was a jazz DJ in the early 80s) & recorded at Boston’s Mad Oak Studios. The songs were carefully constructed, arranged & what’s rare in the music business today, it just could resonate.
The Outliers: Ward (acoustic guitar/vocal), Greg Hall (bass), Cody Nilsen (electric guitar/baritone guitar/pedal steel/ 12-string guitar/vocals), & Josh Kiggans (drums/percussion). Lyrics included in the CD but some will need a magnifying glass. Photo courtesy of the Ward Hayden website.
The 36-minute CD is available @ https://www.wardhaydenandtheoutliers.com/