Pendulous vocals that cling to a reverberating melody that is as fleeting as a sunset. Swaying basslines that give way to cascading guitar solos. Boisterous kick drums that set the stage for a marching ballad of resentment, forgiveness and self-imposed solitude. A lyrical willingness to sacrifice everything if it means getting the one thing that was always missing. Ted Hajnasiewicz isn’t shy about incorporating all of these inspired elements of his majestic poetry and music into “This Town is Not for Me,” “If I Could Leave This Place Tomorrow,” “Wedding Coat” and “I Give Myself;” all of which are included in the brand new album This Is What I Do. An anthology of sorts that unites the brightest gems in his repertoire on a single disc, Hajnasiewicz’s This Is What I Do ventures into emotional territory right from the start and reminds us why both critics and fans alike have heralded this singer/songwriter as among the best and most adept of his scene, which is saying quite a lot if you know the history of music in Minneapolis.
The production quality of This Is What I Do is, simply put, immaculate, multifaceted and studded with more texture than even Hajnasiewicz’s diehard supporters might be expecting to encounter. The guitars of “Longing for the Northern Wind” and “Go Easy on Me” have never been heavier, even considering their acoustic nature, while the confident vocals we discover in “My Heart is in Memphis,” “Burning Bridges” and “Oh! Sweet Love” are so much more physical and tangible than what we would usually find when scanning the local FM dial for similarly conceived country/rock ballads. It feels slightly odd to me describing This Is What I Do as a country record; it’s almost as if the terminology not only doesn’t fit the profile of the music, but that it’s dismissive of the originality that it relentlessly throttles at us. There’s none of the countrified big label monotony that many audiences have come to resent the Nashville establishment for pumping out with greedy impunity, and the cinematic storytelling that Hajnasiewicz shares with us here stands as the polar opposite of the contrived metaphors and trite analogies one would be forced to endure when consuming a music video on CMT. This is straight up authentic roots rock, which appeals just as much to country listeners but is unquestionably more pure in spirit.
Brilliantly produced and brimming with passionate play from start to finish, This Is What I Do is an superb snapshot of the many lives, loves and legacies that have been born of and will ultimately be left behind by Ted Hajnasiewicz’s art form someday, and if you haven’t already heard his music in the past I would highly recommend this album as a critical starting point. In these songs we get to know him as a human being and not just as a man behind a microphone crooning beautiful verses against an atmospheric yet homespun acoustic backdrop. Tightly wound, full of unadulterated emotion and poignantly arranged, Hajnasiewicz’s latest release may well be the very best of his entire career so far (although something tells me it won’t be the last time we hear from him).
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