Mick Hayes – My Claim to Fame
CD: 10 Songs, 34 Minutes
Styles: Ensemble Blues, Jazz-and-Soul-Influenced Blues, Southern Soul
Once in a blue moon (occurring on Halloween this year), a soul blues album shines so brilliantly that one wonders why its artist isn’t yet a household name. Such is the case with Mick Hayes and his stellar new CD, My Claim to Fame. It’s only thirty-four minutes, yet listeners will savor it long after its final notes have faded. Like the vibrant, melding hues of fall leaves, the album’s vocals, instrumentation, and overall style blend so beautifully that there’s not one wrong note, nary a word or emotion out of place. It does just what the blues is supposed to do: lift you up in the midst of misery through expounding on the misery itself. It’s absolutely transcendent.
Presenting “Southern Soul Music with a California Finish,” Mick Hayes is no stranger to the fame he claims. An official member of the Blues Foundation, Mick Hayes is a published songwriter, accomplished singer and guitarist who’s been on the Grammy ballot more than once, in a number of different categories throughout his career. Regarding his current masterpiece, he comments: “I spent nearly two years preparing for [its release], and it was recorded in the place where you get your Master’s Degree in Southern-Soul Music [Muscle Shoals, AL]. From the deep grooves of the in-house band to the analog grooves of the vinyl record, My Claim to Fame is just that! People have been saying that this could be the worst time in history to release music. I think it’s the best time in history to get folks to listen and experience it the way that we all used to.”
Hayes’ co-performers are also famous in their own right, bearing laundry lists of accomplishments: Justin Holder (James Le Blanc) on drums and percussion; Bob Wray (Ray Charles, The Marshall Tucker Band) on bass guitar; Clayton Ivey (Bobby “Blue” Bland, Etta James, B.B. King) on electric piano and organ; Vinnie Ciesielski (Gladys Knight, Lyle Lovett) on trumpet and flugelhorn; Brad Guin (Jason Isbell) on baritone sax, tenor sax and flute, and Will McFarlane (Bonnie Raitt, Levon Helm) on rhythm guitar. Don’t forget the harmonic background vocals of Marie Lewey and Cindy Walker, aka the Muscle Shoals Singers. As for Mick? He’s the man.
“Sweet to Me” begins the album, meshing Steely Dan style with the big-band sounds of yesteryear and a sizzling guitar solo from Mr. Hayes. Next comes the CD’s first surefire hit, “Hand-Me-Down 45’s,” an ode to the vinyl records that got Mick through his frustrating formative years. “I thank the good Lord for good hooks and good vibes, for my hand-me-down 45’s.” If this isn’t on B.B. King’s Bluesville yet, yours truly is going to be sorely disappointed. “Way Too Hard” channels classic R&B, featuring soaring harmonies and a searing guitar edge. “Parking Lot Romance” brings back the ‘50s in 2020, including an “ooo-wop” for emphasis. “My Heart” brings us back to the blues and allows Hayes’ vocals to command center stage. Grab a partner and hold them close on the dance floor. If you’re in the mood for a peppier number, try “Ramona.” “Political Funk” disses “governmental junk” in groovy fashion. “No Second Chances” lets the horns resound like heaven’s trumpets, and “Autumn Romance” is an underrated, understated musical poem. “Saddest Picture of Me” closes the album poignantly, the notes of the intro falling like October rain. It’s bar time, secret-divulging time, and Hayes nails it.
If anything fantastic ever came from 2020, it’s My Claim to Fame!