Reviews – Stay A While (2009)

by Robert K. Oermann, Feb. 13, 2009

Writer: Byron Hill/Jennifer Schott; Producer: Byron Hill; Publisher: Byron Hill/Sony-ATV Tree, ASCAP/BMI; BHP (track)
I love Nashville songwriter albums. Byron’s is a 12-tune dandy showcasing his burnished baritone in wonderfully produced tracks. The title tune is a gentle, winning, mid-tempo invitation to romance that’s as warm as a hearth. Over the years, he’s won 10 ASCAP Awards and had more than 575 cuts. “Fool Hearted Memory,” “Nothing On But The Radio,” “Pickin’ Up Strangers,” “Lifestyles Of The Not So Rich And Famous,” “Born Country” and “Size Matters” are all in his vast catalog. So the man knows what he’s doing. Highly recommended.

by Caroline Davis, May 2009, Volume 16, Issue 117

DIY artist Byron Hill celebrates 30 years as a songwriter with Stay A While, a warm collection that includes engaging reminisces about the early days (“Blame It On Kristofferson”, “You Ain’t Chet Yet”) and gentle love songs (the snappy “More Where That Came From” is my favorite). Even after nearly 600 recorded songs and dozens of awards, it’s clear that a grateful Hill is still as excited about creating music as when he rolled into Nashville, in a borrowed car, all those years ago.

by Larry Delaney, April 2009

Nashville songwriter Byron Hill is one of the most decorated songwriters from the past quarter century, with his songs recorded by the Who’s Who of Country Music (George Jones to George Strait and everyone in between; and he has also played a key role in the Canadian country scene with his songs and with his production work, most notably with Gord Bamford, earning Hill a Producer Of The Year win at the 2008 Canadian Country Music Awards. It is surprising he can find time to make his own records…but luckily for fans, Stay A While marks his third such project.
Stay A While will definitely keep you entertained and make you want to stay for more than just a while. The album contains a wide variety of musical styles – there’s a jazz scat/swing tune in More Where That Came From; a cabaret touch to Once You’ve Been To The Moon, a haunting story song in That Old Car, a little bit of extra bite in The Dream Comes True; and some melancholy in My Daughter’s Father….heck there’s even a hint of bluegrass in All The Home I Need, with Byron’s vocal on that tune comparable to what Don Williams gave us for so many years.
Two songs in particular demand special attention. Blame It On Kristofferson is a tribute of sorts to one of Byron Hill’s songwriting influences, Kris Kristofferson; while You Ain’t Chet Yet, is another fun tune which honors the work of the late guitar master Chet Atkins.
As a sort of payback to Byron Hill’s Canadian connections – he also includes the song Way Too Long, which he co-wrote with Canucks Gord Bamford and Duane Steele.

November 27, 2009

Byron Hill is a singer/songwriter that really needs absolutely no introduction. You have been singing along with his songs like George Strait’s “Fool Hearted Memory” for years now and more recently probably caught yourself singing his songs like Gary Allan’s “Nothin’ On But The Radio” or Joe Nichols “Size Matters.” With his new batch of songs that he presents on his new album Stay A While, Hill puts his abilities as a songwriter well on display bending between genres with relative ease. Early on in the album you get a dose of a dusty jazz feel with “More Where That Came From” as he gets your fingers snapping along. He uses his abilities in crafting a solid lyric combined with his rich voice to deliver slower paced gems like the albums title track “Stay A While,” “Once You’ve Been To The Moon” and “My Daughter’s Father,” as well as the more up-tempo cuts like the feel-good “Life’s A Ditch.” However, he doesn’t forget about his country roots as he wears his influences out on his sleeve with songs like the one that arguably stands out on this album, “Blame It On Kristofferson,” and the foot-tapping, fun filled lyrically “You Ain’t Chet Yet.” Songwriters are always a fun listen because you never really know what you are going to get. Sometimes they lean far off to a non-mainstream side of their writing, or in the case of Byron Hill and this album, he offers up a batch of soon to be huge hit songs complete with their radio ready mainstream feel.

by Steve Circeo, Feb. 23, 2009

This is pure, soulful country music from a guy who’s been writing and performing it for years. While some of the lyrics are very clever and enjoyable, like “You Ain’t Chet Yet” and “Blame It on Kristofferson,” there are times when the lyrics fall short, like “Life’s a Ditch,” which, in its economic, if not artistic, defense, sounds like it could fit well on a Rascal Flatts record. All in all, the simple instrumentation combined with Hill’s smooth vocal performances make for a very enjoyable CD. (SC)

– by Rob Selkow, BYRON HILL/Stay A While. Hit making songwriter deliver a dozen originals, August 9, 2011

I discovered Byron Hill at a songwriters showcase in Clarksville, about an hour up I 65 from Nashville where Hill has been writing songs for more than 30 years. His hits as a writer or co-writer include “Pickin’ up Strangers” for Johnny Lee, “Fool Hearted Memory” for George Strait and “Nothing on but the Radio” for Gary Allan (who Hill also championed when Allan was transitioning from car sales to country music). As a singer, Hill is a plainspoken balladeer whose rich tone falls somewhere between Don Williams and Mel McDaniel, which is to say, most pleasing to the ear. The lead cut, “Stay Awhile” establishes Hill as a country traditionalist that writes with simplicity and doesn’t spruce up good songs with any unnecessary dressing. “More Where That Came From” is a bouncy, traditional country number with some tasty Dobro licks from Grand Ol Opry steel guitarist Tommy White. “Blame It on Kristofferson” is an ode to that Pied Piper of modern country songwriters that led the way for many Music City songwriters of Hill’s era in the late 70’s. “Way Too Long,” is a mid tempo, trucking lament about life on the road that, in a perfect world would have already landed on country radio. The Dobro and mandolin may be a little too potent as arranged by Hill, but may have a radio future if sweetened up by someone else. “Life’s A Ditch” and “That Old Car” are other radio-friendly tunes that could easily find a home on a Trace Adkins or George Strait album. My offering of Hill’s songs to other artists is no reflection on Hill as a singer. He has the kind of voice that soothes, bends notes in all the right places and never lets you forget, this is country music. That’s just enough to keep a good singer off the radio. The dozen songs included here are all solid. Those previously mentioned, plus “All the Home I Need” and “My Fathers Daughter” are great ones. This is an album I will spend more time with.

 by C.M. Wilcox, April 30, 2009

On his third studio album, songwriter Byron Hill strays from what I previously called the ‘back porch appeal’ of his first two albums. Where those earlier efforts were simple, efficient acoustic affairs, Stay a While finds Hill bringing more sounds into the mix, including electric guitar, keyboards, piano, and even organ on some tracks. The result is a somewhat more lush-sounding record, one that will probably be a bit less jarring to ears accustomed to a radio-ready production style. Hill, who also fills the producer seat, does an admirable job of not washing away all of his everyman charm in the tide of these sonic embellishments. The thing that ultimately keeps the effort grounded is Hill’s voice, a charming workhorse that’s as warm and relateable as it is technically limited. His Myspace page wryly notes that he “Sounds like: a songwriter,” which at first blush reads more like a joke than the secret of success that it truly is. Sadly, though, Stay a While is sorely lacking in the all-important songcraft element that creates interest and moves action forward: conflict. A hallmark of Hill’s previous albums was the break-up song, a preoccupation which combined with the acoustic style to give the impression of a lovable loser strumming a guitar out on the porch as he watches his baby not coming back (to borrow a line from a David Ball single). As a songwriter, some of Hill’s best efforts have been those built on conflict. Oftentimes, the conflict is even spelled out in the lyric that gives the song its title: “I’ve got a fool-hearted memory” (George Strait), “Nights are the loneliest part of the day/That’s when your memory comes around” (Ed Bruce), “Let’s talk about anything, anything in this world/But politics, religion, and her” (Sammy Kershaw), “I took her to the moon/And I can’t bring her back” (Trace Adkins). If these new recordings are any indication, Hill is now at a happy juncture in is life. Stay a While practically revels in contentment and life lessons learned. The dewy-eyed title track, the finger-snappingly cool “More Where That Came From,” the trucking ballad “Way Too Long,” the smooth “Once You’ve Been to the Moon,” and the buoyant “The Dream Comes True” are all about being madly in love. In fact, the one song that sounds like a good break-up song (”The Photograph”) was actually written about the passing of a mother. Given that Hill’s previous albums spent about half their time dealing wonderfully in the problems of love, it’s a little disappointing to find that everything is suddenly going so terribly right. While most of these songs are fine and even enjoyable on their own, the album sags a bit under the weight of so many of them. That’s not to say that every song is about love. There’s also an ode to an old friend in the form of “That Old Car,” a story song complete with life philosophy in “Life’s a Ditch,” and a song about the rambling life of a musician in “All the Home I Need.” While these are welcome breaks from the virtual lovefest elsewhere on the album, they are neither numerous enough nor outstanding enough to reverse the album’s general treacly trend. Hill does best when writing in more of a broken and self-reflective mode, as he does on two of the album’s finest songs. The first is “Blame It On Kristofferson,” which finds him thinking about the man who set his life’s course and the awestruck boy inside of him still trying to live up to the legend some forty years later: “I’ve been blessed to bring a smile to a few folks with my songs. Bring a tear to someone’s eye and hear them sing along. But sometimes I start hating every word I’ve ever written, Thinking I ain’t ever living up to “Sunday Morning Coming Down” at all….Blame it on Kristofferson”. Even more poignant is the album’s final song, “My Daughter’s Father,” a quiet meditation on balancing the expectations of the world (and self-expectations) with more essential matters of the heart: “It’s not like everybody’s waiting to see if I’ll go far. It’s not like everybody’s watching, though sometimes I think they are. I don’t have to change the world, I don’t have to walk on water. All I have to be is my daughter’s father”. Although a few more moments like these would have improved Stay a While immensely, what’s here is a solid songwriter album. While I’d recommend either of Hill’s first two albums ahead of this one for those interested in discovering his talent, established fans will likely find plenty to enjoy about this latest offering.

 by Jeff Warfle, Feb. 24, 2009

Byron Hill has just released his 12 song CD, “Stay A While” and it is already getting rave reviews. Byron is one of my favorite songwriters, and I believe the man is destined for induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. -JW

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