Walker Hayes – boom. Reviewed: We check out the new release from Shane McAnally’s Monument Records stable.

Walker Hayes may be a new name to many people in the country music world but he’s certainly making his mark. The singer-songwriter was dropped from Capitol Records in 2011 and had all but given up on his music dream before hit songwriter Shane McAnally signed him to his newly revived Monument Records label. The first single ‘You Broke Up With Me’ has made big waves across country radio and led nicely into the release of this, his debut record, ‘boom.’.

The album opens up with ‘Beautiful’. It’s impossible to keep your foot from tapping at the chilled out guitars and claps that open the song. Hayes vocals fit nicely as he sings what, to me, sounds like a tribute to Nashville and trying to find that big dream in Music City. Hayes sings “just livin’ the dream, home is where the bus is”. The track is fun and light with shades of Sam Hunt and Thomas Rhett. Already we can tell that this isn’t going to be the most traditional country record.

‘Shut Up Kenny’ is a fun and clever song about Kenny Chesney love and heartbreak songs coming on the radio just when you don’t need to hear them! Hayes sings in almost a spoken word style “yeah like my heart needs any help in that breaking department… no offence but shut up Kenny”. Interestingly the song is quite stylistically similar to a Kenny Chesney song and also the opening track on the album. It’s got that kind of chilled out beach vibe.

Track three is the ‘big single’ from the album in the form of ‘You Broke Up With Me’. The song is heavily R&B infused with Hayes pretty much rapping the song as opposed to singing. It’s got that jaunty and upbeat feel that the opening songs on the album had. Lyrically it’s a great song with Hayes singing about a girl wanting to get back together with him after she’d previously split up with him. It’s a brilliant song for the newly single as he sings “don’t be raining on my Mardi Gras parade”. You can tell why it’s got such good traction on country radio as it’s nice and upbeat and definitely gets stuck in your head.

Co-writer Nicolle Galyon lends her voice to ‘Halloween’. This song opens with more of that spoken word style of singing from Hayes. Despite it being a fun sounding song it’s actually quite a serious song about young life feeling like Halloween every day having to wear a different outfit and being driven by fear before reality hits like “trick or treat” and shatters the masks that you used to wear. It’s really clever songwriting and is all about appreciating that person that you’ve become and saying goodbye to having to pretend to be someone else. Galyon’s vocals add a really nice element to this.

‘Dollar Store’ kicks off with some beatboxing from Hayes. Again, it’s very much an R&B country song. It’s definitely one for the summer with its upbeat feel. I have to say that I’ve admired the lyric writing on show on the album up until this one. It feels a little cheap and doesn’t really resonate with me. It’s kind of about not having much money but still having a good time. It’s fun but not for me.

Track six was co-written with McAnally, Matt Jenkins and Scot Sherrod so has some real songwriting power behind it. ‘Beer in the Fridge’ takes things down a little bit. After ‘Dollar Store’ this slice of hard reality is a welcome addition to the record. It’s all about a relationship ending due to drinking too much and how he’s now on the wagon. It’s a tender and honest song about the last beer that is still in the fridge from his last all nighter but that he’s not going to touch. This is a really fantastic song and the line “I guess I have to live without you now because I couldn’t live without” will hit people who have struggled with addiction.

Next is ‘Beckett’ which was also written with McAnally. It’s a lovely song written about Walker’s son Beckett – it even includes him with the intro of “I’m Beckett and I’m four”. For any fathers out there it’ll really hit home and bring a smile onto your face… in fact you don’t need to be a father for it to make you smile. “When I grow up I wanna be like Beckett” is just the epitome of the doting father. You can’t help but laugh at the repeated line from Beckett “Where’s my airplane? I like the fat fruit loops!” Great fun.

‘Mind Candy’ is up next and is a tribute to Hayes’ wife and those little things in every day life that remind him of her. It’s a doting song about how his train of thought is constantly derailed thinking about her. It’s another upbeat and fun song.

The penultimate song is ‘Prescriptions’. It’s another well written song about an ex hoping that his old flame accidently says his name and just can’t forget him so that it gets into the middle of their relationship. He sings “I ain’t trying to be a jerk it’s just my way of coping” and “relationship goes to shit about it and you bitch about it, tell your sister about it see your therapist about it”. It’s great to see a rare break-up song from the male perspective that isn’t your typical Chris-Young-crying-into-his-beer song.

The final track on the record is ‘Craig’. This is a really vulnerable and heartfelt song with clever lyrics. Craig is the man who took him in when he was struggling with self doubt and “slapped me on the back and said you’ve got a gift”. It’s a lovely tribute to those people in our lives who help us through the hard times and believe in you when nobody else does. It’s a true story about the man who has helped Hayes out massively through the struggles that he’s endured and is a really lovely tribute.

Track Listing

1. Beautiful
2. Shut Up Kenny
3. You Broke Up with Me
4. Halloween (Feat. Nicolle Galyon)
5. Dollar Store
6. Beer in the Fridge
7. Beckett
8. Mind Candy
9. Prescriptions
10. Craig

Overall

This is a record that leaves me a little bit confused – not necessarily in a bad way. I have to admit that this style of country, the sort of R&B infused pop country isn’t usually my thing, but the quality of songwriting on offer is very high. There are some tracks that simply don’t do it for me such as ‘Dollar Store’ and, dare I say it, ‘You Broke Up With Me’. Listening to ‘Beckett’ and ‘Craig’ definitely gives a great insight into Hayes life and that type of raw and personal songwriting should be commended. I can definitely see Walker Hayes becoming a very big act in country music with the fans of the more modern sound however this wont resonate at all with traditionalists. I’d love to see Hayes produce a record that has all of that heart and fantastic songwriting but maybe strips things down with less of the pop ‘gloss’.

Recommended Tracks

Beer in the Fridge, Beckett, Craig

Six Shooter Rating

7 out of 10

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