Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Rick Hayes "Fly by Night" - CD Review

Rick Hayes has played mandolin with the Gibson Brothers for four years. At first he was the guy on the end with the terrific smile who played the mandolin. Over the years we’ve watched him with this group whose national reputation just keeps growing. Rick, too, has taken on personality and developed his role with the band as crucial to the percussive sound along with Mike Barber and playing increasingly intricate and skillful mandolin breaks. At the same time, as a bandsman in a group featuring the brother duos of Eric and Leigh Gibson, his singing voice has never been heard, although his lips move, and he seldom talks from the stage. With the release of his new solo project “Fly by Night” Rick sings (apologies to Al Jolson). Not only does he sing, but he plays almost all the instruments in the band of this tour de force project.

Jim Van Cleve

Rick Hayes

While Rick’s web site says he’s all about music, what makes him interesting is the surrounding interests and experiences putting the music into context. While raised in Cincinnati, he spent many weekends of his childhood returning to his parents’ home in rural Kentucky, where he was surrounded by music. He played guitar from around age 8 and added the mandolin soon after. During his teens he played guitar and drums professionally in rock bands in central Ohio and Kentucky. For a time he worked for Kenner Products designing toys where he became the youngest senior toy designer there. During this time he also played high level competitive tennis, being ranked in doubles before an injury cut short that career. He began working as a graphic designer doing graphics and photography, adding a recording studio after a few years. During this time he also played in heavy metal bands. In the early 1990’s he owned a bluegrass record label called Legend Records where he recorded first solo albums for both Dwight McCall and Clay Hess. He joined the Gibson Brothers on mandolin late in 2004. Recently he has begun building the Hayes mandolin, seeking the look of the classic Loar with the feel of his beloved Stelling, turning a hobby into a business. A few years ago, he and spouse Lyn added video production to their studio, making it a full service recording, production, and distribution outfit. “Fly by Night” combines many of these skills and experiences into a pleasing package for bluegrass fans.

Dwight McCall

The Rick Hayes Band will probably never tour or perform on stage. With all members performing in major national touring bands as well as working in production and as much sought after side men in Nashville, there won’t be a chance for them to see the light of day. Thus, “Fly by Night” stands as a testimony to Rick Hayes’ skills as a producer and as a master of studio technology. Jim Van Cleve serves as fiddler for Mountain Heart and as a noted producer in his own right. Ron Stewart is currently touring with the Dan Tyminski band on banjo, but was also named IBMA fiddler of the year in 2000 as well serving as producer and engineer on several bluegrass projects. He is a much in demand session player on both banjo and fiddle. Dwight McCall plays mandolin and sings for J.D. Crowe and the New South, but contributes tenor vocals on the present disk. Josh Swift, on Dobro, has recently joined Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. Clay Hess, now with Mountain Heart after a long stint with Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, as well as working on numerous other projects contributes baritone vocals as well as three of his own songs to this collection. Of course Leigh and Eric Gibson, The Gibson Brothers, perform on the disk and one of Eric’s songs is included, too. I looked for a connecting link bringing all this talent together, and the common thread, with the exception of the Gibsons, turns out to be Ohio. Finally, in a touching bonus track, Rick’s dad Green contributes the vocal as Rick supplies banjo accompaniment. Suffice it to say there’s a whole lot of talent contributing to this effort.

Clay Hess

Eric and Leigh Gibson

Musically, each participant in this thirteen track CD contributes fine moments. Hayes, however, is always at the center. In addition to picking his principle instrument, the mandolin, he sings lead on most cuts and even supplies his own harmony tenor part on one. He plays guitar and bass as well. Rick’s singing is more than adequate, although less than stellar. His instrumental work, on the other hand, shines out in each track. The songs demonstrate characteristic bluegrass drive in the up tempo cuts and are pure misery for the murder ballads. Rick demonstrates the expressiveness of his voice on Marty Stuart’s “Oh What a Silent Night.” On a number of other cuts, notably “Marty Stuart Visits the Moon” and “Broken Hearted Lover’s Ride” he takes advantage of the opportunity to shine and doesn’t miss a beat. “New Whitehouse Blues” by Clay Hess is a wrenching song about the assassination of JFK. In mixing and synchronizing all the elements of this disk, Rick Hayes has taken his own musicianship to another level by creating a sound and a musical environment on the mixing board. In “Fly by Night” a bunch of side men have demonstrated why they are invaluable in the music world and to the music profession, and Rick Hayes has shown himself to be a worthy member of the fraternity.

Ron Stewart

Samples of this disk may be heard at Rick’s web site where the disk may also be purchased. Information about the Hayes Mandolin can be found here. Hayes Productions stands ready to help professional musicians achieve their production goals for all elements of the recording and producing process.