Album Review – Wade Hayes “Who Saved Who”
Where in the world has Wade Hayes been? He’s been hiding in the same dark honky tonk on the edge of town as actual county music for the last decade or so. How country is his latest record Who Saved Who? The title track is about the love of his dog if that gives you any indication. That’s to say his newest album is unapologetically country, untouched by the dirty hands of the fickle and trend-based Southern pop they try to label as country today. There’s no retro throwback styling or hipster irony here. Wade Hayes and Who Saved Who is just country music.
In case you didn’t know, Hayes was one of the hottest new things in country in the mid 90’s. His debut single “Old Enough To Know Better” and its video shot at Gruene Hall in Texas hit #1, and he put together five Top 5 hits in the first three years of his career like it was nothing. Wade earned a nomination for the ACM’s Top New Male Vocalist, and was in the running to become country music’s next hottest thing. But you know how this story often goes with country talent that is tough-nosed and unwilling to compromise. Three records into his deal with Columbia Records and a couple of poorly-performing singles, and he was out of the major label business.
But it’s questionable if Wade Hayes ever needed to be hobnobbing in the mainstream country crowd to begin with. The Oklahoma native started out purely as a guitar player with designs on becoming the next Don Rich, picking lead for Johnny Lee. But Wade was too talented to not set at center stage. When the hits gave out, Wade Hayes didn’t give up, he just kept going in whatever capacity he could, playing in a duo called McHayes with Alan Jackson’s fiddle player Mark McClurg, and then ending up in the backing band for Alabama’s Randy Owen. Even with a slew of major hits and two gold records, Wade Hayes was back being a side player by the late 2000’s.
In 2011, Wade took a turn for the worse when he was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. Hayes initially beat the disease, only to have it return in the fall of 2012. It was a tough time to get through, but Wade had a furry companion with him along the way. The words of the title track of this new album are not a work of fiction or a cheap way to get the audience teary-eyed. From finding the rescue he named Jack at a gas station 70 miles outside of Nashville, down to the pizza crust Jack had in his mouth when he hopped up into his truck cab, the true story of Wade and Jack is captured right there in the tune.
So are many other compelling stories on this record, from sentimental loves songs like “Beautiful Mess” and “Better With My Baby,” to the reassuring lines about the state of country music in “Honky Tonk in Texas,” to arguably the other standout of the lot, “Ask That Girl to Dance” solo written by Wade himself. Hayes wrote most of Who Saved Who, but notable songwriting collaborators also appear such as Ward Davis, Radney Foster, George Ducas, Jake Worthington, and Roger Springer.
Who Saved Who was released in December (2019) with little notice or fanfare. Just like so many of the guys from the 80’s, 90’s, and even early 2000’s that rose to the top of the mainstream but seemed to disappear just as quickly after they wouldn’t capitulate to whatever trend happened to be hot at the time, Wade Hayes is not out there trying to hold onto his past glory and preserve his radio relevance. He’s trying to hold onto and preserve country music.
Taking the ups and down of life, health, and love that he’s experienced very intimately in the past few years, Wade Hayes makes a record that deserved to be paid more attention to in Who Saved Who.
1 1/2 Guns Up
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I Stan for Moe Bandy
January 17, 2020 @ 10:01 am
Saw him live this past summer. There was a local cover band set to play the after-party…and Wade Hayes stuck around and jumped back up on stage and sang some Haggard songs with the cover band backing him up well after his own scheduled show was over. He was great. Glad to see him get this project out.
January 17, 2020 @ 10:17 am
Just when I think I have caught up on my collection of music to get, you introduce me to another fascinating singer! Thank you for doing this. Great honky tonk sound!!!
January 17, 2020 @ 10:42 am
I remember him. Will definitely check out this album.
January 17, 2020 @ 11:24 am
He sounds great. Just like I remember. I put some of his old songs on my playlist just last month. On a Good Night, and the fiddle from Old Enough to Know Better bring me back to those days. I also like Tore Up From the Floor Up. Thanks, Trigger.
January 17, 2020 @ 11:37 am
Saw him in concert back in 1998 or 99. Great singer and an underrated guitar player too.
January 17, 2020 @ 11:50 am
Yeah! Thats real good stuff there. The Texas song is pure western swing! AKA music to my ears. Oh man, glad hes back and I hope hes healthy enough to tour, it would be great to see his live act. That song about the dog is touching, much more so than I would have thought. Great find!
January 17, 2020 @ 11:52 am
Arrgghh…the album is not on Google Play here.
It’s on Amazon…but Amazon can kiss my finnish-german country as. …
The title track was released in 2018. I bought it.
More Traditional Releases:
Shane Owens – Thankful For Country Music – Album (12 Tracks) – Released (12/05)
One of the best & one of the most underrated artists. Great traditional country music.
Randall King – “Hey Cowgirl” – Single/Track – Released
Strong George Strait vibe. Midtempo with prominent fiddle.
Dreh Fish Band feat. Pam Tillis – “Every Damn Time” – Single/Track – Released
Midtempo. Fiddle. Cute (yes…it’s cute).
Susan McCann – “The Older I Get” – Single/Track – Released
One of Irelands country queens is singing about..getting older. Emotional with harmonica & fiddle.
Jessi Alexander – “Mama Drank” – Single/Track – Released
70’s styled with steel. Not so cute lyrics.
January 17, 2020 @ 11:54 am
He is great!
Met him several times in the 90’s while I was following Daryle Singletary around.
Honky Tonk Tailgate Tour!
January 17, 2020 @ 12:09 pm
Glad he is doing well. Looking forward to hearing more.
January 17, 2020 @ 12:54 pm
Now that’s the stuff. Picking this up, and wishing Wade and his family all the best.
Dog included, of course!
January 17, 2020 @ 3:07 pm
I shouldn’t try cutting up onions when listening to a song about a dog by a voice like that wearing an astros cap- and I ain’t even a baseball fan- 🙂
January 17, 2020 @ 3:11 pm
Always liked this guy.
January 17, 2020 @ 4:16 pm
I’ve been a Wade fan since 1995; when country was still country. No selling out here or bad reinvention, just beautiful music couched in honesty and sensitivity. Live you’re quite Mr. Trigger.. .”There’s no retro throwback styling or hipster irony here.” No Wade doesn’t need to do that since he is the real thing. Real story telling and based on his own honest life experience and sensitivity. Genuineness so rare today. No reinvention or appropriation here. (I live in hipster hell). Gratitude for elegant sounds from a rare artist. Just the tonic needed to detox from “Old Town Road”, Bro-Country and pop stepping stone artists….
January 17, 2020 @ 6:10 pm
Fantastic! I feel the same way about my Maggie (pic). And we had to put my mom’s dog, Brit, down Christmas night (had a stroke). So “Who Saved Who” has me teary-eyed.
I barely remember Hayes from the 90s. When I went to wiki to refresh my memory, “On a Good Night” jarred my memory because of the line “drive to the lake and turn on the radio and find some George Strait.”
I downloaded the album and will listen tomorrow.
Very nice write-up!
January 17, 2020 @ 7:48 pm
Old Enough To Know Better was one of my favorite albums from the 90’s. If you like that album don’t forget to check out Ty England’s self-titled album. It has a similar sound and about the same mix of fast and slow songs.
January 17, 2020 @ 10:02 pm
Totally agree. Those are two of the best albums that came out in the mid 90’s, imo. Ty England’s debut ,especially, is a great, underrated album wonderfully produced by Garth Fundis.
January 17, 2020 @ 8:12 pm
Once upon a time I owned two of his cassettes. He was good, but didn’t last, at least in the limelight. Glad he’s still around.
strait country 81
January 17, 2020 @ 9:50 pm
Definitely one of my favorites from the 90s that goes under the radar
January 17, 2020 @ 9:59 pm
Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! I like many styles of country but this straight ahead neo-traditional stuff has always been my favorite. I’ve always enjoyed Wade Hayes’ music, too, and I’m glad to see he’s still chugging along and appears to be doing much better with his health. The title track of the new album is definitely a tear jerker, and I wish songs like that were still played on the radio. I’m also loving “Ask That Girl To Dance,” and “Honky Tonk In Texas” is fun Western Swing, a style that doesn’t get enough attention today, imo. Will definitely check out the rest of this album!
January 17, 2020 @ 10:06 pm
Had him for a show this summer. Did quite well and was still himself. Just him and a fiddle player who used to be on a major label herself Meghan Mullins.
Unaware of the new cd thanks for bringing it up.
January 18, 2020 @ 7:02 am
This is a time capsule to the 90s…This is the music that was the backdrop to me graduating high school, then college, and starting my career within that ten year period and I love it. It’s like nostalgia with new songs and words.
I am curious why the whole album is not on Google Play Music. Thanks SCM for bringing it to my attention; it’s definitely under the RADAR.
January 18, 2020 @ 9:28 am
The release of this record has been a little wonky. There was basically no press for it, though I was able to dig up a press release. Most of his socials and website still show his previous release as the new one. The title track was released back in 2018 as a precursor to the album, but the album didn’t come until much later. It’s kind of one of those records you have to dig to find. That’s why I wanted to make sure to highlight it.
January 18, 2020 @ 4:34 pm
Makes me wonder if there was a contractual obligation that went a bit sidewise or sour and it eventually just had to be released. The title track from 2018 is on Google Music, just not the rest. I listened to it via Spotify, and it was worth sitting through the commercials.
Things like this are why I check your website regularly. You’re a great resource for finding great music, thanks very much.
January 18, 2020 @ 7:43 am
He always had one of my fav voices. I still listen to his early stuff all the time.. This album is really good. Soooo glad he’s still recording!!
January 18, 2020 @ 12:22 pm
Performance, songwriting, production – all a big yes. Nice dog, nice truck, I’m in. SCM community needs to support this guy all the way.
January 20, 2020 @ 8:18 am
I can’t believe there’s been no mention of his Highways & Heartaches album. It is easily one of my favorite albums that came out of the Nashville mainstream in the last 20 years. “Goodbye Is The Wrong Way To Go” is a fantastic song.
I am really glad to see him back at it!
January 23, 2020 @ 11:38 am
Thanks for the great recommendation!! Listened to the album earlier this week for the first time. “Up North (Down South, Back East, Out West)” is my personal favorite. I hadn’t heard it or seen the video since it was originally released. Shocked it or “Goodbye Is The Wrong Way To Go” didn’t make it higher than the mid-40s.
January 24, 2020 @ 6:16 pm
That is shocking. It really is a great album. I am glad you found it and liked it! When things like that slip through the cracks, it makes me wonder what other hidden gems there are out there. If Trig didn’t have anything else to do, he should keep that old series going like the one where he highlighted that Randy Howard album from years back. I think saving country music isn’t just reviewing new good stuff but keeping great but ‘lost’ stuff from slipping away completely.
January 23, 2020 @ 10:19 am
Three chords and the truth…
February 17, 2020 @ 2:55 pm
I saw Wade play at the Opry a couple years ago and I’ve been a fan ever since. He’s keeping the soul alive. Glad to see him making a comeback after his health issues.