If you know the road just west of Plymouth called Tenney Mountain Highway, then you know there’s an eeriness beneath that long stretch of blacktop. Especially in the pitch of night, long past midnight when the foothills are draped in darkness, you can get tricked into thinking you actually know what you’re doing.
Recording artist from Concord Will Hatch must know what it’s like to get lost on those nights, tripping on the shadows of his mind, listening to music, just doing his thing.
After all, the very first song on Hatch’s brand new CD, For You is titled “Tenney Mountain Highway.” Simple enough. And what a fantastic listen.
“I never felt so far away,” Hatch sings, over a gorgeous violin, a steady banjo roll and a haunting harmony. In short, Hatch comes out swinging.
Now Hatch, I haven’t a clue of his age. Never asked. Twenties, maybe 30, tops. I probably should have inquired, seeing we’ve known each other since the radio show started more than five years ago. And he’s one of my very favorite musicians in the state to watch play and interview.
When Hatch takes to the microphone, in whatever format he has chosen to deliver – country, rock, R&B, you name it – Hatch usually nails it. He is a multi-instrumentalist, a one-man band, a heavy duty lyricist, with a certain stage presence about him that if you look hard enough you can see ghosts of all eras coming through in his performances.
And on this CD, which was recorded and produced by Immanuel the Liberator at Sound Check Studios in Richmond, Va., Hatch digs right in and surrounds himself mightily with a cast of professional musicians that fills out the edges of this great release.
A year-and-a-half back, Hatch handed me a rough demo of some of these very songs on this CD. He made me swear not to play them on-air.
Not yet, I agreed, tentatively.
It wasn’t easy.
“Oh Lord,” the second cut swallowed me up immediately, and I played it continuously for a good four days in my car. I wanted to share it with the people who needed a song like that in their lives.
But, I held off with a grimace.
“Oh Lord” has a Baptist feel to it, a bit of a twang on it, and the hollowed out voice of Hatch is light, smooth, comfortable leading a choir of voices behind him. Lyrics like, “Oh brother. If you only knew, that I am just like you. Maybe someday we will be at peace with our own realities. Oh Lord, Oh Lord, pick me up,” hit you like a bag of wet rocks. You can’t help but be stunned by the earnestness in those words.
The undeniable influence the late, great country artist Hank Williams has on Hatch is evident. Hatch is even built like Hank, when Hank was strong, not just blown out. But, like Hank, there are many layers to Hatch. He can sing Smokey Robinson as well as he does his own stuff. And he will write about the good times and the bad.
And on “Hank,” the third song, Hatch pays homage to Williams, singing how “he had given all he got” for the music, until the pain became too much, and there was nothing left to give. This song comes with gorgeous horns, piano, layered vocals. Three for three so far.
Hatch is running hot.
Flashy finger picking, pedal steel, the intoxicating slap of the brushes with a steady beat, the fourth song, “Oh Girl” is set up perfectly to describe one man’s love for someone that just keeps running away from him. Hatch has other plans, though. Of course. Filled with images of wrinkled bed sheets, a lifetime worth of effort put into something that maybe was never there. Hatch is still selling though, singing how he needs her to “cut them chains from my poor feet” or concede to his own passions.
Throughout For You, Hatch doesn’t just play a song, he attacks the songs. He knows where he wants to go with them and he goes headlong into it. He captures his signature sound in “Davisville Rag.” Hatch does it again deep into the CD on a song called “For You.” For some reason, I hear Leonard Cohen on that one. And I love it.
And on “Ridin’ High” Hatch again wraps his smooth voice around the tale of someone lost, but rolling along without a care in the world through every curve in the road.
Just like you need to do on Tenney Mountain Highway.
Go to willhatchmusic.com to learn more about the songwriter.