Muskogee-born Hayden Miller's self-titled debut is an earnest effort, but it's not sincere enough to be completely heartfelt, nor rowdy enough to be a real barnstormer.
Musically, the 11-song country release is fine, although not particularly noteworthy. There's Dobro, fiddle and pedal steel aplenty, but none of it proves interesting enough to draw attention from the disc's biggest distraction: abysmal songwriting.
"Hole in My Soul" is a disappointing crooner that rhymes simplistic: time/lines, door/more, well/tell and so forth. "Can't Give Up" is more of the same, only with piano. "Cigarette Ashes" is the album's high-water mark, a jittery country shuffle that's more of the rural fun that Miller's probably very familiar with. Instrumentally, this song is perky and interesting, and features players picking, sliding, sticking and trading competent studio licks.
"Time of Day" is a conceptual and lyrical disaster. The premise is universal: ham-handed good ol' boy throws back a few too many, loses out on a bar floozy, reflects on his life so far. Miller should never have "opened his mouth and let that redneck just pour on out."
"The way your G-string crept up from out your pants just below your tramp-stamp tattoo / Hell, honey, I didn't mean to stare, but I'm just a man. What did you expect me to do?" he inquisitively bellows. "It ain't right for you to waltz in here and strut around like you're showing off a brand new dime / Oh, but ain't it just my luck after a couple beers, well, it happens to me every time."
Either Miller isn't much of a songwriter, or his life isn't interesting enough to sing about. Of course, some of the best country musicians have made decades of relating other people's stories and struggles, so self-reflection isn't essential to his chosen form. Maybe he'd be better served tackling a subject other than himself.
The album is available as a $13.99 CD or a $9.99 digital download. For more information, visit www.haydenmillermusic.com. "Joe Wertz