Sean Hayes, “Before We Turn To Dust” (Sean Hayes Music)
If the Black Keys are the current blues practioners who sound like they would roll you for your change in the alley behind the bar, Sean Hayes is the one who’d pick you up, dust you off and buy you a drink afterward.
Hayes’ brand of blues, more a folk-blues hybrid, may be smoother than some of his down-and-dirtier counterparts, but it’s no less effective – on “Before We Turn To Dust,” modern beats carry along a world-weary rumble that conveys just the right balance of hope and desperation. It’s mesmerizing.
Hayes sets the mood just right on the title track, drawing a direct line between our never-ending quest for love and the limitations of our own mortality. “Got to give it up to get iiiiiiitttt,” he croaks, and when he extols the importance of “every moment, every breath,” he sounds wise and wizened at the same time – he’s like a bluesy Yoda.
On other tracks, like the piano-driven “Bam Bam,” Hayes manages a sexy dangerousness, and he turns to a smoky falsetto on “Drop Down,” a nostalgic slow-burner that draws parallels between his parents’ joys and challenges – “They got it on and I’m sure glad they did,” he sings – and his own current life as a new father.
Hayes goes dark and sultry on “In Your Pocket,” stuttering “slip back, Cadillac, you break it every time” over booming guitar and bass; and “Lucky Man” is classic gutter blues, with Hayes sighing “I’m a lucky man” like he wishes he meant it.
On “Before We Turn To Dust” Hayes grumbles, coerces and cajoles the blues into the modern era, and it’s a slow-rolling pleasure to listen to it as it happens.
Peter Chianca blogs for Gatehouse Media’s Blogness on the Edge of Town and is author of “Glory Days: Springsteen’s Greatest Albums.” Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.