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Hunter Hayes

Hunter Hayes – 2011 (Atlantic)

Reviewed by Rick Bell

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CDs by Hunter Hayes

Read the album liner notes and you ca,n't help but to be blown away by newcomer Hunter Hayes' credentials. The Louisiana native plays every instrument on his self-titled major-label debut. He's listed as lead or co-writer on every cut. And he co-produces the record with Dann Huff - heady stuff indeed for a 20-year-old on his initial offering.

Yet, that's where Hayes's impressive debut mostly ends. For one so young, there's nothing daring, innovative or even slightly precocious on this record. The songwriting is predictable, the musicianship is surprisingly restrained and Hayes's voice liberally pilfers Keith Urban and Rascal Flatts' Gary LeVox, depending on the cut.

Wanted is a typically noisy, cluttered ballad, Somebody's Heartbreak is pure sappy pop and his hit song Storm Warning doesn't just take a page from Urban's uptempo stylings; he robs him blind. (By the way Nashville producers, you please place a moratorium on songs kicking off with yeeah! and all accompanying yips and hoots throughout?)

Hayes can musically prognosticate all he wants about the weather. (Besides Storm Warning there's another cut titled Rainy Season.) But until he develops his own vocal style and rips into a gritty, soulful lead or steel guitar riff, there's no fresh breeze in Hunter Hayes's forecast.