Anyone who caught the wizard of Katoomba, Claude Hay supporting US blues guitar hero Joe Bonamassa at his recent Sydney gig would have been as amazed as I was that Hay’s music held its own against Bonamassa’s road-toughened four-piece band – and there was only one of him.

For years the remarkable Hay has travelled the world with only himself and his collection of loop-boxes, jim-jams, boo-bams, junk instruments and kitchen-sink guitars (‘Stella’, who we heard at the Bonamassa gig was a baking tin in a former life). Hay’s independence – no, self-sufficiency – has extended to his music which has always been a highly personal take on the Blues – taking in country, zydeco, slide-blues and hard-rock – as chopped and channelled and welded together as his guitars.

Claude-Hay-Love-Hate-final

To check Claude Hay live and hear his huge rockin’ sound come out of so few people (one) is astonishing. There is always the danger that, on an album with no visual, the novelty will disappear and the music will disappoint.

Thankfully it never does. It didn’t on his first two LPs – 2007’s Kiss The Sky and 2010’s Deep Fried Satisfied – and it sure doesn’t on his latest, I Love Hate You. Hay’s talent, instrumental ability and country-strong songwriting always errs on the side of deep feeling and rootsy honesty.

For the first time Hay has used trusted outside musos on an album – notably, the rhythm section of Sydney blues-rockers Chase The Sun. Does this toughen the sound? Who knows – sounds pretty wild to me from opener, the title track ‘I Love Hate You’, a stomper that hangs out Hay’s shingle of heavy blues, more Hound Dog Taylor than B B King.

The stompin’ vibe continues through ‘Good Times’ and into the stringy funk of ‘Stone Face’ – Hay’s self-production on every track is as tough and as sparse as I needs to be, just perfect for each song (it helps to be a One-Man Band).

Power-ballad ‘Close’ seems a departure for Hay – his website suggests his songwriting is beginning to show the influence of his childhood love of 80s cock-rock – but I hear Jeff Buckley in ‘Close’: swooping, highly wrought vocal (Hay is a hell of a singer) and one of those Led Zep builds that made ‘Grace’ so irresistible.

Also from Hay’s site: “‘I Love Hate You’ is a concept album – dealing with the things Claude loves, hates and loves to hate. From loved ones, great gigs, motor vehicles and treacherous trans-continental bus rides, bad customer service and indifferent radio programmers.ClaudeHay_SingelCover_LoveHate_LoRes1

Further listens will reveal who or what these love and hate objects just might be – through acoustic porch-rocker ‘Narrow Mind’ and banjo-led roller coaster ‘Blues Train’, all the way through to moody back-street crawler ‘Hound’ and closer, the Chilli Peppered junk-funk of ‘Turn It Up’.

Claude Hay lives in a dome house he built himself, plays instruments he built himself and tours the world on the wings (or wheels) of a career in music he built himself – he doesn’t seem to need for much. But we need the Claude Hays of this world now more than ever. As Big Music cuts out its digitised cookies in ever-increasing numbers and turning the AutoTune off is the definition of spontaneity, we really do need music like this.

 

Published December 2012 on theorangepress.net

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