September 20, 2007

Man (still) at Work: Colin Hay resurfaces. Not that he ever left

The last time you saw Colin Hay, he was probably gallivanting across a windswept desert in the video for “Down Under,” a ubiquitous, comedic, pro-Aussie anthem that MTV kept in rotation, back when it cared more about music than what some rich brat wants for her 16th birthday.    Or, more recently, you saw him, acoustic guitar in tow, trailing Zach Braff in the second season of “Scrubs,” where Hay engaged in a bit of quasi-self-deprecating humor by strumming “Overkill” at will.    Point being, Hay never dropped off pop culture’s radar completely. His previous solo outing, 2002’s Company of Strangers, didn’t have a home until Nashville-based Compass Records decided to foot the bill to release it in the states. But first, Hay told LEO, the label wanted to re-introduce his music to what it hopes will be a new generation of fans.    “The first thing they said to me was, ‘Would you consider doing a compilation album as our first release, because people haven’t really been aware of what you’ve been doing.’”    That compilation was Colin Hay: Man at Work, a mish-mash of old and new, but by then Hay ahd already been working toward Strangers follow-up, Are You Lookin’ at Me?.    The tracks are Hay at his most self-actualized. Hay sprinkles kernels of wisdom and perspective, as on the title track: “I had myself a moment, my day out in the sun/It’s an unfinished story, but it’s more than just begun.”    “The approach to it wasn’t really different,” says Hay, who created Are You in his home studio along with wife Cecilia Noel and guest players.     “Before (this record), I was on my own. That can be slightly troubling, because you’re doing everything and not very well. The most fun and exciting time is actually making the record, then thinking how am I going to get these albums out of my room and into other people’s rooms.”    Hay’s latest shouldn’t be tossed off as a legacy exercise. On “Here in My Hometown,” he bottles subtlety with lush slide guitars and patient rhythms to complement its matter-of-fact, here’s-how-it-is theme. “What Would Bob Do?” — yes, it’s about Dylan — borrows both its structure and lyrical cadence from the man himself.    Hay plays a free in-store at ear X-tacy records (1534 Bardstown Road, 452-1799) and later at Headliners Music Hall (1386 Lexington Road, 584-8088) on Tuesday. Contact the writer at mherron@leoweekly.com