On the Deluxe Edition of his self-titled debut, Grammy nominated singer/songwriter Hunter Hayes offers fans five new songs to go along with the project’s original 12 pop-leaning tracks. Hunter Hayes (Encore), which is available now and grabbed the No. 1 Country Album spot when released in mid June, further shows that the 21-year-old multi-instrumentalist from Breaux Bridge, La. has a musical vision all his own.
Having sold more than 830k album copies since first released in late 2011 while notching No. 1 radio hits and platinum singles, Hunter’s story has gained widespread recognition. However, it bears retelling here; Hunter wrote or co-wrote all of (Encore)’s 17 songs, co-produced it alongside the award-winning Dann Huff (The Band Perry, Rascal Flatts) AND played every instrument heard on the record. Hits like “Storm Warning” and “Somebody’s Heartbreak” are tight, lockstep and meticulously constructed. New tracks like the current Top 10 single “I Want Crazy” follow suit with quick acoustic notes, ear-catching melodies and perfectly-placed instrumentation. Though there’s a hint of Keith Urban in both his vocal inflections and his fluid guitar playing, Hunter makes each track his own both figuratively and literally.
Hunter carries a unique vision for his music and his sound, and the new additions on (Encore) fit perfectly into the original record’s feel. The bouncing love song “A Thing About You” builds around a funky electric guitar lick and hook-powered chorus while the ever-building “Better Than This” (co-written with Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood of Lady Antebellum) features urgent melodies and shiny production. As with the original 12, the new songs here fall in place with precision.
Hunter is an extremely talented songwriter and musician with the ability to express exactly what he hears in his head. However, the flipside is that there are inevitably passages that could benefit from another voice in the mix. Hunter’s masterstroke on (Encore) is that he seemingly realized this same thing and includes updated versions of three songs fans will know from the 2011 version. Calling in pop star Jason Mraz to duet on the acoustic jaunt “Everbody’s Got Somebody But Me” and Ashley Monroe on the dramatic “What You Gonna Do” gives the project a new dynamic and emotional chemistry. In fact, with an impassioned performance from Ashley on the latter, “What You Gonna Do” is transformed into one of the project’s best songs with a new-found spontaneity and artistic give and take. The rollicking “More Than I Should,” which Hunter re-recorded for (Encore), carries a raucous new energy that comes across loud and clear.
Hunter’s musicianship and ability to write in a variety of musical styles take (Encore) a long way. Listening to the power ballad, “Wanted,” next to the rootsy, “If You Told Me To,” showcases the diversity of his talent. Yet, the objectivity to realize what could enhance an individual piece is a strong indication that this young hitmaker is only getting better.
Key Tracks - “Storm Warning,” “What You Gonna Do,” “If You Told Me To,” “Better Than This”