Hayden Pedigo – The Happiest Times I Ever Ignored
When planning his Mexican Summer follow up to The Letting Go, Hayden Pedigo set out to make, ““the best instrumental acoustic guitar album of the past twenty years.” The Happiest Times I Ever Ignored meets that mark on many levels by paying homage while pressing onward. Pedigo’s heroes are ever present, but so is Pedigo’s own “voice.” Nick Drake’s sullen solemnity, Bret Jansch’s proper precision, and John Fahey’s cheeky playfulness all find a home in Pedigo’s guitar soundscapes while leaving plenty of room for Pedigo’s personal touches. Cinematic and expansive in a few short minutes, Pedigo’s pieces capture a moment while leaving the listener a place to step inside with their own hopes, dreams, and devastations.
A lifetime worth of shenanigans turned serious endeavors from political office to fashion runways may have motivated Pedigo’s move to desolate, and decidedly slower paced, Lubbock, Texas. Leaving Amarillo behind, Pedigo describes the move to Lubbock as, “even more flat, desolate, windy and dirty – like being on Mars. It’s pushed me to create more because there’s not really much to distract.” The lack of distractions paid off as Pedigo began work on The Happiest Times… and the pieces began to flow in complete phrases. Pedigo teased out each theme and chipped away at each arrangement until he could perform the songs with strength and determination from front to back. This dedication to not only songcraft but practiced performance paid off as Pedigo enter Pulp Studios in Gainesville, FL (this reviewers homebase coincidentally) and found himself with a nearly completed record after a single day of studio time. Next a studio crew composed of producer Trayer Tryon (Hundred Waters, Moses Sumney) on synths and bass, Luke Schneider (Margo Price, Orville Peck) on pedal steel, and Robert Edmondson on electric bass and piano produced a soundscape of appropriate accompaniment that shades in the background – adding color without painting over Pedigo’s performances.
Much like a psychedelic trip, a journey through the land of Pedigo’s The Happiest Times… can take the listener where ever the listener is inclined to go. While pieces push in clear directions – mystery and awe while “Looking at Fish,” peace and purity on “When It’s Clear,” wonder and adventurism on “Elsewhere”, closeness and connection with the intimate on “Nearer, Nearer”, quiet reflection on “Signal of Hope,” mournful nostalgia on “The Happiest Times I Ever Ignored” and “Then It’s Gone” – there is immense room within which the listener can place personal narratives as a B-roll of their past mixes with imagined future encounters or even wilder fantasies. Much like the album art which sees an alien blue skinned Pedigo with a relaxed yet focused expression unbothered by a car on fire in a Walmart parking lot behind him, The Happiest Times… can become your pathway to tranquility or acceptance in the midst of the alien dumpster fire that modern life has become. Take a few moments to escape with Hayden Pedigo’s The Happiest Times I Ever Ignored, ignore your daily travails, and come back rejuvenated for both the hard and happy times ahead.