Local Wire

Sean Hayes @ Rhythm Room

NYC songwriter Sean Hayes doesn't bother with the very-much-in-vogue retro-soul affectations of the moment, but make no mistake about it, his new record, Before We Turn to Dust, has got spirit and groove in abundance. Remember how you'd see names like Carole King in the credits of Donnie Hathaway records? That's what's going on with Hayes' songs like "Miss Her When I'm Gone" and "Drop Down." He builds songs with "good bones," then dresses them up with subtle touches of rocksteady, soul, rockabilly, and modern pop, utlizing affected guitars, pulsing electric piano, and organic percussion. "Some albums coming out, you get the sense that they're going for a sound or aesthetic instead of writing actual songs," Hayes says, as his new son gurgles near the phone. "I like to build something with good bones and then sort of dress it up as I see fit." Hayes focuses on songs, and the lyrical themes — aging, fatherhood, and death — expose the mind of a guy unconcerned with fleeting, youthful problems. Which isn't to say that Before We Turn to Dust ever gets too heavy or burdensome: "Lucky Man" has got its heart and, thankfully, funky backbeat in the right place as Hayes sings, "I've been lied to / I've been robbed / Held up in the street / In the dark / I know I'm a lucky man / To have you / In my life."

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.