Si Hayden is a one-man band, composing entire songs on an acoustic guitar playing both lead and rhythm parts. It never occurred to me that I would enjoy compositions with such a simple bare essential, but you never know what you’ll like until somebody makes songs that way. His strumming is articulate like Luka Bloom and his melodies and improvisations are so well developed like Les Paul that they ring to the beating pulse of life. He puts in a few bars of artsy scaling and intricate fingering that make you go dizzy feeling beguiled by their entanglements like in "Jd ‘n’ Coffee" and "Just A Bit O’ Fun," but for the most part, the melodies are very tuneful and the limberness in his fingers are absolutely fascinating. Si Hayden is a guitarist’s guitar player. The only frills you’ll hear are the ones he makes with his fingers and six strings.
Steel Roots is Si Hayden’s third instrumental solo guitar album. Produced by Hayden, most of the songs are original compositions written by Hayden with the exception of two, "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash and "Moondance" by Van Morrison. Each tune stands out in a different way. You might find a methodology to Hayden’s playing, but every composition is so tailored with its own voice that it negates everything you have ever learned about method playing. These are not finger moves that are taught in school. They are moves with such imagination and independent thinking that they make you feel honored to hear them. The music has a striking star quality that few artists can achieve. Hayden uses no special effects or overdubs. His playing is divinely pure, but you’ll swear he must have used some form of trickery to have the effect that his music will make on you.
Hayden’s music falls between the lines that separate jazz from country, and his compositions certainly show that the two have more common factors than most music fans ever knew. There is a bluegrass vibe pulsing through the fretwork of the opening track "Eliya" with segments of lounging jazz joining along the line. There are bits of dazzling flamenco work on tracks like "Confessions Of A Tractor Thief" and the title track "Steel Roots" and tempo changes that intermingles a reposing flow with an upbeat tapping. Hayden’s rendition of "Folsom Prison Blues" has a cool country tint, while the soft-pop hooks in "Golden Fictitious" and "Flat Spot" take the listener to another dimension of Hayden’s playing.
The improvisations which Hayden creates on the tribute "Hats Off To Pete Townsend" takes some of Townsend’s most memorable riffs and decorates them with fabulous extensions. You’ll never believe that all of these movements are coming out of one acoustic guitar. His reworking of Van Morrison’s melody "Moondance" keeps some of the original lines while juxtaposing them with Hayden’s own specialized chord concoctions. "Planet Of The Grapes" is like a starlight jazz suite played after dark with some meaningful country-influenced patterns and intricate fretwork that can only be imagined.
There is a dreamy quality in Si Hayden’s melodies that keeps your head floating up above the clouds while the country aspects in his music keeps everything feeling open and homey. I know that I make it sound like he is pulling you in two different directions, but really his music pulls you in one, towards experiencing fascinating sonic vistas. A native of Coventry, England, Hayden’s sonic vistas seem to come natural as he plays to the beating pulse of life with total abandonment of conventional methodology. Speaking of unconventional, Si Hayden is left handed and plays right-handed guitars.