Ok, so actually this isn’t an introduction for Canadians, as Toronto-based Paul Hayden Desser a.k.a. Hayden has been performing and quietly releasing albums since 1994. However, he’s known as being something of a reclusive, so don’t be alarmed if you’ve never heard of him and didn’t know that he’s just put out his seventh album, Us Alone. The first six albums were on his own (obscure) Hardwood Records label, but this time, he’s signed with Arts & Crafts, realizing that it might be a good idea career-wise to actually let some people know when you’ve put out new music. It’s possible that what led to this foray into public life was that he was erroneously listed as “deceased” on on his Wikipedia page. Fortunately, the error was brought to his attention by a fan. As he himself said, “I was dead six months before anyone noticed.” Humor is so essential in this business.

As a singer-songwriter since mid-90s, he began in grunge and alt-country, though he seems to be maturing into a heartfelt, honest sort of lo-fi folk/acoustic rock sound. But it’s not “middle of the road.” Far from it. There’s a melancholy and a sweet darkness that’s incredibly wholesome and appealing. And then there’s his voice, which has a gentle warmth that draws your right in.

I for one am very glad Hayden is still with us, and happier still that he’s decided to let a few people outside of Canada know of his existence for this new album. The songs are just lovely, with piano and strings cascading like a waterfall in “Old Dreams” and a wistfully nostalgic organ and harmonica in “Almost Everything.” Nearly all instruments are performed by Hayden, except for a few contributions from friends on select tracks (such as pedal steel on “Just Give Me a Name” and harmonica on “Almost Everything”). He also handles all the duties of engineering, mixing, and producing. Every track on this recording is steller, but the crowning jewel, for me at least, is the somber and chilling “Instructions,” where he touchingly sings of his final wishes. It’s a piano-driven, shimmering wave of dark folk, easily the most gorgeous song on the album.

“Here’s how I’d like things to go down
please don’t leave me in the ground
put all my ashes in a can
drive up north in the van
roll the windows down and play the band.”

“And take me to the place
where we spent timeless days
and throw me to the wind
above the dock where we’d swim
that’s where I’d love to begin.”
– Instructions


Upcoming Shows
Feb. 13: New York City, NY (Mercury Lounge)
Feb. 20: Toronto, ON (The Dakota Tavern) SOLD OUT
Feb. 21: Toronto, ON (The Cameron House) SOLD OUT
Feb. 22: Toronto, ON (Rivoli) SOLD OUT
Mar. 7 Wakefield, QC (Blacksheep Inn) SOLD OUT
Mar. 8: Montreal, QC (La Sala Rossa)
Mar. 13-15: Austin, TX (SXSW)
Mar. 17: Denver, CO (Hi Dive)
Mar. 20: Seattle, WA (Tractor Tavern)
Mar. 21: Portland, OR (Doug Fir Lounge)
Mar. 23: Vancouver, BC (The Rio Theatre)
Mar. 24: Nelson, BC (The Royal on Baker)
Mar. 26: Edmonton, AB (The Royal Alberta Museum)
Mar. 27: Calgary, AB (Festival Hall)
Mar. 28: Saskatoon, SK (The Bassment)
Mar. 30: Winnipeg, MB (West End Cultural Centre)
Mar. 31: Minneapolis, MN (Triple Rock Social Club)
April 3: Chicago, IL (Schubas)

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