Mitch Hayes– ‘Heroes’

–Will Phoenix

Mitch Hayes’ Heroes is a showcase of his skills as a singer-songwriter and guitarist. His second release, it is a blend of related genres including Americana, bluegrass, country, folk, reggae and story song. Hayes (acoustic guitar, banjo, and lead vocals) wrote all twelve songs here himself.

He is backed by an assortment of other artists including: Eric Lovell (electric guitar, bass, dobro, lap steel, mandolin, percussion and background vocals), daughter Erin Hayes (flute and background vocals), son Jordan Hayes (background vocals), John Spurrier (drums), Jason Atkins (piano, Rhodes and organ), Austin Cline (cello), Rick Blackwell (electric and upright bass), Tony Prior (pedal steel guitar), H L Ruth IV (banjo), John Culbreath (fiddle), Mike Alicke (electric and acoustic guitar and Gigi Dover (background vocals). The album opens softly but sincerely with “Look At You”. It’s a country-tinged cut that he considers to be one of his best songs.

The Hardest Thing” is a song that recalls a difficult moment for Hayes. It’s followed by “All My Heroes” is the semi-titular track. It is a poignant piece concerning those who inspired him including Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

The next number, “Hand Of The Devil”, is an up-tempo story-song that has a touch of western and bluegrass as the core of his signature sound remains generally intact. He gets political with the platter’s single “All Fall Down”. It’s a current events-inspired cut that captures the familiar feel of those who tire of polarization, injustice, violence and unnecessary death that to someone who survived the 1960s may seem out of place today.

Home Again”, like the previous track, also has a familiar message that somehow Hayes personalizes to make it work. It’s followed by “Helping Hand” which would probably work well in a live environment and is vaguely reminiscent of the likes of performers such as Pete Seeger. It features “gang vocals” by Timothy Curley and the Hayes family.

Ashes And Dust (Erin’s Song)” is a personal dedication to his daughter laced with familiar ideas. Complete with Celtic touches, it exudes an almost Appalachian feel too. This quiet ballad is an early critical favorite with solid vocal work and a memorable melody.

A Peaceful Revolution” is injected with reggae which gives it a bit of a world music feel. It’s enough to be interesting but not so much that one wonders why it was included here. The tenth track is titled “Life Goes On”. Highlighted by a soft-stringed lead, it is a smooth ballad with lyrics that are both autobiographical and yet universal.

Something Deep Within” is a banjo-led early, critical favorite that has a spiritually-tinged old sound to it. Like much of his other work, it is simple and yet it works. The closing cut is “Home Again (Reprise)”. While a reprise is indeed generally a questionable choice, its inclusion was perhaps perpetuated by a need to present two sides to the same song. It works surprisingly well.

While Hayes’ vocals seem to have a contrast to them, due in part to being treated for throat cancer in the midst of this project, the disc doesn’t suffer. In fact, the sometimes clear and sometimes gritty vocals add to the over stripped down presentation of his lyrics, music, and very life. His songs come from deep within his heart and he is not afraid to bare it regardless of the circumstances. So check out Mitch Hayes’ Heroes and see for yourself how he is oft’times inspired by “Something Deep Within.”

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