Sunday, March 13, 2011

Colin Hay Releases Gathering Mercury on Compass Records

Colin Hay may be best known as the lead singer for Men At Work, the band that topped worldwide charts with anthems like “Down Under,” “Overkill,” and “Who Can It Be Now?” Hay’s justifiably proud of his place in pop history, but since moving to Los Angeles in 1989, he’s made 11 solo albums and re-introduced himself to a new generation of fans. The timeless appeal of his songs -- quizzical, curious, cynical yet openhearted -- have been embraced by TV and film (notably the lauded Garden State soundtrack), and he’s continually sold out shows with nonstop touring, and made cameo appearances on the hit TV show “Scrubs.” But with all the ongoing success, he reckons that Gathering Mercury may be the best album of the lot.
“These are some of the strongest songs I’ve ever written,” Hay says from his home studio in the hills of Topanga Canyon. “The loss of my father last year brought an extra emotional contingent to them. I don’t have an idea of an afterlife, but I do feel like I had his help when I was writing this album. He wasn’t a songwriter himself, but he was a good singer, so I put myself in his place and wrote songs like he might have done.”
Hay produced the ten songs on Gathering Mercury in his home studio, with the help of his touring band and friends like bass player Jimmy Earl and pianist Jeff Babko from Jimmy Kimmel’s band, drummer Randy Cook, Cuban percussionist Luis Conte (Madonna, Ray Charles) and his wife Cecilia Noel on backing vocals.
“Send Somebody,” a hypnotic pop melody, was inspired by a late night phone conversation. “You call tech support one night around midnight and actually get a human being on the line,” Hay explains. “The unexpected connection with a stranger is often easier to make than one with people you know. It brings up the longing for connection we all feel.”
“Dear Father” is a poignant folk-like tune with Hay’s 12-string guitar and melancholy vocal taking center stage. “This song was written and recorded almost instantaneously, a gift from beyond, if you will. The night my father died, I was in Glasgow on the river Clyde, about 20 streets away from where he was born. There’s some kind of bleak poetry in that; it inspired the song.”
“Far From Home” has the gentle reggae lilt of a Men At Work tune. Hay wrote it with some input from Ringo Starr. Jeff Babko’s Hammond B3, Cook’s one drop drumming and Hay’s rhythm guitar add to the melody’s syncopated feel. “I don’t know if it’s reggae as such,” Hay says. “When I play electric guitar, the rhythm I feel is that offbeat pulse that’s used in reggae. It’s my natural default."
The tunes on Gathering Mercury are deeply affecting, but never maudlin. Despite the often serious subject matter, they’re full of Hay’s usual optimism. “It’s not a conscious thing and may have to do with the Scottish mentality. We deal with darkness by making light of it. It doesn’t diminish the charge of the feeling, but it’s more pleasant to talk about your feelings if you stick with what’s going on today without dwelling in the past.”
3/13 - The Clayton Center - Clayton, NC
3/15 - Largo Cultural Center - Largo, FL
3/17 - Plaza Theatre - Orlando, FL
3/18 - Broward Center - Ft. Lauderdale, FL
4/07 - The Birchmere - Alexandria, VA
4/09 - Keswick Theatre - Glenside, PA
4/10 - Ram’s Head On Stage - Annapolis, MD
4/12 - City Winery - New York, NY
4/14 - Boulton Center Perf. Arts - Bay Shore, NY
4/16 - Pollak Auditorium - W. Long Branch, NJ
4/17 - Somerville Theatre - Somerville, MA 
4/20 - The Landing at Pine Point - Scarborough, ME
4/21 - Quick Center - Fairfield, CT
4/22 - Tupelo Music Hall - Londonderry, NH
4/23 - Tupelo Music Hall - White River Junction, VT
4/26 - Rex Theater - Pittsburgh, PA
4/27 - 20th Century Theatre - Cincinnati, OH
4/28 - The Ark - Ann Arbor, MI
4/30 - Park West - Chicago, IL
5/01 - Saugatuck Center for the Arts - Saugatuck, MI
5/04 - The Old Rock House - St. Louis, MO
5/05 - Turner Hall Ballroom - Milwaukee, WI
5/06 - Prairie Center For The Arts - Schaumberg, IL
5/07 - Pantages Theatre - Minneapolis, MN
8/27 - Ottawa Folk Festival - Ottawa, ON
9/08 - Saint Rocke - Hermosa Beach, CA 9
9/10 - Yoshi’s - San Francisco, CA
9/14 - The Alberta Rose Theatre - Portland, OR
9/15 - Triple Door - Seattle, WA
9/23 - Valentine Teatre - Toledo, OH
9/24 - L2 Arts and Culture Center - Denver, CO

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