Go And Give The Guard A Break

Meghan Hayes

Independent release, 2004


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


You never know what it is about an artist that's going to catch your interest. Yes, in her cover note Meghan Hayes revealed we're both Springsteen fans, but what most piqued my curiosity about this album initially was the name of Hayes' music publishing company. Cranky Heartburn Music? Okay, this one's gotta be worth a listen or three.

And so it is. Hayes is an Arlington, Virginia-based singer-songwriter who blends a variety of styles together to create one that's all her own. Take Mary Chapin Carpenter-style country-folk introspection, spice with early Sheryl Crow gritty-pop, fold in the musical eclecticism and oblique lyrics of a Suzanne Vega, and you have the intriguing jambalaya of sounds Hayes fuses together on this, her sophomore independent release.

It's a disc full of songs that feel simple on the surface but grow more complex and full of shadings with every listen. Kickoff track "I'm Not Leaving" -- an appealing, upbeat slice of acoustic country-folk that features piano from longtime Carpenter bandmate Jon Carroll -- feels at first like yet another clever kiss-off song ("I'm not leaving / I'm just not coming back"), but ends up leaving the door wide open for other interpretations.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

This trend of obscure meaning layered over bright, interesting arrangements continues throughout the rest of the disc. I won't even pretend to understand what "Constantine" is about, but I know good poetry when I hear it, and the choice to embellish this mid-tempo number with flugelhorn is brilliant. Similarly, the meaning of the words to the meditative "Three O'Clock" is unclear to me, but the use of accordion to lend warmth to its generally somber tones is perfect.

"Nothin' Doin'" is one of the more straightforward cuts here, a song about a night on the town with a friend in which they seize the moment by simply enjoying each other's company. It features an upbeat, somewhat country-rock arrangement and a catchy chorus: "Nothing is the only thing worth doing tonight / Nothing's the only thing that's right."

For more evidence of musical variety we turn to "Voice Like Mine," whose funky, percussive opening section bursts out into a straight-ahead rocker. It actually sounds a bit like the Go-Gos in their prime, if you manage to ignore the fact that the lyric is a bizarre collage/barrage of disconnected images and clever rhymes, punctuated by a blistering guitar solo.

Down the line we find other notables in "Branson," an amusing laundry list of second-rate vacation spots leading into the punchline of "Take me to Branson"; "Four Tables And A Chair," whose r&b/hip-hop rhythm track bounces along under lyrics that read like an odd poem and Hayes' distinctly Tuesday Night Music Club Sheryl Crow vocals (favorite line: "I strain for what you say / You get more done when you mutter"); and the closing "The Brighter They Come," a poignant acoustic number about a woman in love with a man with a habit.

Go And Give The Guard A Break -- whose unwieldy title is taken from a line in "I'm Not Leaving" -- is a great introduction to Hayes' original and appealing style. Meghan Hayes is a prodigious talent, both an imaginative, original songwriter and a singer with a gift for wrapping her voice around a song. Highly recommended, cranky heartburn and all.

[ For more information or to purchase this disc, visit www.meghanhayes.com .]

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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