Hadden Sayers: The Dopamine Dream

C. Michael Bailey By

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Guitarist and composer Hadden Sayers took the 40th Annual Blues Music Awards by storm, riding the sonic wave created by this dual release of Dopamine Machine and Acoustic Dopamine. Sayers was nominated for the "Acoustic Blues Artist of the Year" for the latter recording. We are in the midst of a blues revolution and Hadden Sayers is a field general in the effort.

Hadden Sayers
Dopamine Machine
Self Produced

Just when I was about to give up on the blues altogether, I had a road-to-Damascus experience at the 40th Annual Blues Music Awards in Memphis, Tennessee. There, I was introduced to progressive way of thinking about America's indivisible, subatomic music. Hadden Sayers is one of the reasons for this. Log a neo-purist, I preferred the reliable 9-or 12-bar varieties of the music, appreciating the stray flatted fifth or seventh played in other harmonic trappings. But that thinking is constraining. as is the effort to push music into set genres (such is the way with humans and writers). Sayers, a Texas product (where else), who has a definite idea about the direction in which he is taking blues music. Following a string of recordings over the past 10 years, Sayers throws two spears in the sand that point the music's direction. Sayer's "Dopamine Machine" is his smartphone and he honors her with a song that could be applied to any obsession. The title piece is one of several examples of Sayers's sharp song and lyric writing. Never begin an album with a ballad. Unsatisfied (and, later, "Hit The Road") crunches granite to gravel. Who-ish "I Feel Love." With the soul-blues "Blood Red Coupe DeVille" Sayers begins to refine his approach beyond the rock realm. Things begin to get interesting. The ballad "Waiting, Wanting" (harmonically reminiscent of "I Can't Find My Way Home") of features an angular, Picasso, guitar solo the develops nervously to an explosive climax before returning to base.

"Good Good Girl" is almost an all out departure, incorporating equal parts of Pharrell, Prince, The Temptations, and Rare Earth. Sayers sings, rap-like, near falsetto, packing an impressive punch. "Peppermint Patty" has Sayers's voice-modified and subject matter suitable salacious. The title song is an anxious rocker, Sayers's tribute to the obsessive in all of us for everything. "Gravity" is the album's centerpiece, Sayers's little piece of genius that incorporates Cat Stevens, Rod Stewart, and Lindsey Buckingham. This is the concert showstopper of this exceptional release. Hadden Sayers reminds us that not all rock music is continuing to evolve, aways with something new to say.

Hadden Sayers
Acoustic Dopamine
Self Produced

Released the same day as Dopamine Machine is Acoustic Dopamine. At first glance, this looks like a bit of overindulgence on Hadden Sayers's part, but his reasoning for this acoustic companion dis is sound. When Sayers appeared at the 40th Annual Blues Music Awards, he performed acoustically. Many acts performing will tour in a stripped-down fashion. It is certainly less expensive and makes logistic sense. Sayers has this block of music that he wants to play either electrically or acoustically, but he found that he often had to change his approach dramatically. And so he did. "Dopamine Machine" turns from a tense study of the Who's Tommy into a relentless drive song. The acoustic "Learning to Disappear" reveals the clever line, "Kerosene is the mother of reinvention and blues is the mother of jellyroll."

"Peppermint Patty" retains all of its lascivious charm while "Gravity" becomes a full-blown ballad. Acoustic Dopamine demonstrates both the durability and creativity of Sayers, who can roll with the punches and change as necessary to accommodate his present audience. The electric Dopamine Machine and wooden Acoustic Dopamine prove grand companions. Sayers showed much courage with this project and for the listener, I believe it pays off.

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