WESTERN FOLK (2016)

RODNEY HAYDEN RETURNS TO HIS ROOTS,
WESTERN FOLK, DUE MAY 20 ON ALAMO RECORDS

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Rodney Hayden delivers his most mature collection of songs to date with the release of his 10th album, Western Folk, due May 20 on Alamo Records.  While many artists are chasing the latest trends and blending genres in an attempt to appeal to the masses, Hayden has stripped his sound down to its origin.  “Western Folk is the name of the album but it’s also an appropriate characterization of the style of music that I play.”  Hayden says from his home in San Antonio, TX.  “It’s me and a guitar, one mic, one take, no overdubs.  We kept it as authentic as possible, and I’m very proud of the outcome.”

Authenticity has been a recurring theme in Hayden’s career.  His debut album The Real Thing (2002) made an impression with the media; receiving rave reviews from USA Today, Entertainment Weekly and People Magazine, which exclaimed: “The title says it all!”  With each subsequent album and through relentless touring (over 2,000 live performances) Hayden has carved out his own unique spot in modern music, particularly in Texas where he has earned the respect of some of the states most legendary musical figures.

While Hayden rarely co-writes he has built an impressive list of collaborators which include Robert Earl Keen, George Strait, Aaron Watson, Kevin Fowler and Drew Kennedy among other notable artists and songwriters. The twelve tracks that make up Western Folk however are collaborations of a different nature Hayden explains.  “Most of these tracks were originally written as poems over a hundred years ago, that I put music to and turned into songs.”  The result is an album that enriches our vision of the American West in a way that few albums have managed to capture.

In a time when many seem content with forgetting the past, Rodney Hayden is determined to keep it alive.  “These aren’t just songs, they’re a real connection to where we came from and who we are.  It’s crucial that we hold on to these aspects of our heritage and preserve them.  Like everything else, it’s all one generation away from disappearing.”  Hayden says deliberately.  “These are timeless stories and lessons that are every bit as relevant today as they were when they were originally written.  We live in a world that is changing rapidly, which is exciting, but at the same time it’s imperative that we don’t lose touch with our roots.”  Hayden speaks with authority on the subject as his family lineage dates back to some of America’s earliest settlers including a Captain in the American Revolution.

It’s that independent spirit that has led Hayden to develop a successful business model in the digital age.  By embracing new media Hayden has drastically expanded his fan base throughout the world due in large part to his series of podcasts, blogs, videos and online concerts.   With the support of Alamo Records and the release of his new album Western Folk, Hayden is poised for a monumental year in 2016.

What In The World Is A “Twang”?

Country music has its routes and feelings deep into the western, blues and folk music. It appeared in the 20s and since then its popularity was fantastic and it continues to grow even in our times. Even though the world around seems to be having fun on electronic or house music, country keeps on healing broken hearts. Or have you thought that country is all about dancing and joy? It may seem it is, but its themes are generally based on loss, heart brakes, cheating wives or boyfriends or the author’s feelings that no one understands him.

Don’t get us wrong, country can be all about happy music. You will hear happy lyrics when the ex-boyfriend or cheating wife comes back or when the ones that no one understands become rebels and do what they want. But coming back to some important tips, how can you learn to sing country?

First of all, you need twang, that specific sound in your voice which will make any song that you interpret to be in country style. You don’t need to have it naturally as it can be practiced in the beginning in talking and then in singing. To succeed, try to think of twang as the sound of a guitar and try to make your voice incorporate it.

Believe it or not, twang is not specific only to country. It can be found also in blues. Actually, blues and country have a lot in common. They have twang, emotion, deep story and meaningful lyrics. In addition, if you decided to sing country, you need to transmit a story. Furthermore, if you think that you are already too old for learning to sing country, you are totally wrong. Country music is one of the few singing styles where age doesn’t matter and as a proof stand tons of artists who started singing in their 40s.

Gruene Hall

Gruene Hall
(article written by Rodney Hayden)


Gruene Hall was built in 1878 and quickly became the center of the social scene for central Texas.  The Hall hosted everything from high school graduation ceremonies to badger fights with music being the constant.  To put it into context when Gruene Hall opened it’s doors Billy The Kid and Jesse James were still wanted men. Sam Bass would soon be killed by Texas Rangers just up the road in Round Rock and the notorious outlaw Bill Longley was hanged in Giddings.

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Gruene was a quiet cotton farming community founded in the 1840’s by Ernst Gruene and his family. As more people began settling in the area The Mercantile and Hall were built and Gruene became a popular overnight stop for stagecoaches that ran between Austin and San Antonio.

As the world gradually came in and everything in the vicinity grew and changed Gruene Hall for the most part stayed the same. The longest continuously running dance hall in Texas began to take on legendary status soon after Pat Molak purchased it in 1975.  Aside from it being added to the National Registry of Historic Places, Asleep At The Wheel began playing The Hall on a regular basis as did Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker.

“Willie was looking for a place to have his Fourth of July picnic.”  Jerry Jeff recalls, “We rode around in the countryside looking at property and wound our way around and stopped at Gruene Hall to have a beer.”

The rest as they say is history.  You can see it on the walls in the numerous autographed photos that are framed and neatly aligned.  You can hear it in the authentic music that is still presented seven nights a week.  Most importantly however, you can feel it. It’s history is incomparable; both generally speaking as well as from my personal connection.

 

For a singer/songwriter born and raised in the San Antonio area there is no other place that leaves you with the feeling that Gruene Hall does.  There is something magical about it all.  The place, people and music mixed with its rich history makes it the ideal location.  It’s also nearly impossible to truly express in words.  It’s one of those things in life that you must experience for yourself. You might run into my friends Wade, Chris or Jeff leaned against the corner of the front bar telling stories.  They are a part of a special group of people who inhabit The Hall on a regular basis. Over the years I have been embraced by that family of people and am proud to call them friends. With Gruene being such a major tourist destination it makes me proud to know that many visitors to our great state will likely encounter some of our most hospitable.  They are shining examples of what being a Texan is all about.

I grew up going on day trips to Gruene with my parents. On one of these trips they took me to see Joe Ely for my first concert. My first date was to Gruene Hall for a BR5-49 concert.  The first time I played there was just after my 18th birthday in 1998 opening for Robert Earl Keen.  It’s where I spent my bachelor party as well as numerous other celebrations and holidays both as a performer as well as a spectator.  Gruene Hall holds many memories for me.  From sharing the stage with some of my heroes to dancing all night long with my wife on a Two Tons Tuesday. It’s the last place I saw my mother before she passed away and it’s the first place my son Wyatt saw me sing in public. Gruene Hall is a special place for me as it is for so many others.  It connects us in the present to our past and will hopefully continue to do so in the future.

When you get a chance I hope you will take the time to visit Gruene Hall for yourself.  If you do, ask around and you might find me or if you’re really lucky you might meet some of my friends.