Album Review: Jeff Hyde - “Norman Rockwell World”

Eric Church collaborator and band member delivers his debut album via his own record label.

The germination for Jeff Hyde releasing his own album was simply because he has written many songs he’s personally loved but didn’t feel anyone else would be likely to record. With that seed planted, the longtime sideman and frequent co-writer of Eric Church worked with Ryan Tyndall to record these ten songs that make up his debut album Norman Rockwell World. Those ten songs were written between 2010 and 2016 and prove that a great song doesn’t need to be © the same year it is released. “Fiction” is perhaps the most “Eric Church” sounding song on the record, sonically, but Jeff Hyde’s voice suggests a singer who has listened to a lot of bluegrass records and recalls the late, great Harley Allen, something that’s nothing but good in my way of thinking. “Baby By Tonight” is a song that would’ve been comfortable on a 80s/90s country radio playlist, something that could also be said by the ballad “Cold” but neither song feels retro in anyway.

“The Filter” has a melancholic groove that could go on for days as Jeff Hyde sings an aching lyric about love lost (and has a nice harmony vocal assist by Sarah Buxton). Speaking of a groove, “Cabin Fever” definitely has it while the lyrics speak of a woman who is in, for a lack of a better phrase, “in heat” for the narrator. Country music often plays in the land of nostalgia so it takes a special kind of writer and artist to deliver a song like “Norman Rockwell World,” the album’s title track. It’s a song title that implies nostalgia and fortunately Jeff and his co-writers (Clint Daniels and Michael Heeney) deliver the goods. “Henry Ford” is a songwriter’s song while “One Light Town” has me nostalgic for the town I spent many a days as a youth before we moved there for my high school years.

With songs like the 10 song cycle presented on Norman Rockwell World, Jeff Hyde joins the ranks of singer/songwriters from Nashville (or who work in Nashville) like Sean McConnell, Natalie Hemby, and Lori McKenna. They primarily make their careers as writers, singers and musicians for others but they truly shine on their own and thankfully we’re in a world where they can get these great songs out for the world to enjoy.