Album Review: Hunter Hayes - Hunter Hayes (ENCORE)

Hunter Hayes released Hunter Hayes in 2011 to much critical-acclaim and proceeded to have the album get nominated for ACM and Grmamy Awards and now rather than rush-release a follow-up full-length, he's set to release Hunter Hayes (ENCORE), a collection of 17 tracks that enhances the album with 8 newly recorded tracks.

After selling nearly 800,000 copies of his self-titled albumHunter Hayes wasn't quite ready to move on from the strong collection of songs from the Grammy-nominated album. Instead of just throwing a couple songs on the album and calling it a "Deluxe" edition, he re-worked three of the original album's 12 tracks and cut five more songs for the album to craft an album for his growing legion of fans, an ENCORE version of the debut album.

Of the three re-recorded songs, two are recorded as duets while the other "More Than I Should") feels more aggressive melodically, a feeling Hunter wanted to express more of since the song's lyrics clearly 'demands' such an arrangement.  "What You Gonna Do," is the song "double H" wrote while only 16 and it's a song that helped him eventually score his record deal with Atlantic Records. In the new re-recorded iteration found on ENCORE, Hunter enlists his WMN label-mate Ashley Monroe (of the Pistol Annies) for a fantastic duet that makes an already strong song GREAT and one of the album's clear highlights. That other duet, "Everybody's Got Somebody But Me" was one of my personal favorites on the album and for this version, we find Atlantic Records pop/soul singer Jason Mraz joining Hunter and showcasing how well Mraz blends with Hayes vocally and it's easy to see the always great song as a potential single. 

All of the five new tracks on ENCORE were co-written by Hunter (as was the rest of the album) and they showcase a more 'mature' artist, particularly "In A Song" and "Better Than This." The new tracks also showcase mostly uptempo, feel good songs like Gold-selling single "I Want Crazy" while "Better Than This," and "A Thing About You" both feel like potential hits, something that's really evident on the closer, "Light Me Up," a track Hunter co-wrote with busbee and Shane McAnally. It's the song he says he opens his shows with and after listening to it,it's easy to see why, it gets the listener in a good mood and really feels good on a road trip playlist.  

The beauty of releasing these tracks is that they represent a nice bridge between 2011's Hunter Hayes and whatever album will be the proper 'sophomore' album for Hunter Hayes. They give the artist more time to breathe as he heads out on a big tour and enough time to craft the album but what's best about ENCORE  is that there's still the 9 'untouched' tracks from the original album, including Gold-selling Debut hit "Storm Warning," Triple-Platinum-selling "Wanted" and his last hit, the #1 hit "Somebody's Heartbreak." For more about our thoughts on the original release, take a look at our review from 2011 here.

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ORiginally posted on June 12, 2013 at 5 pm.