The new record from Jack Hayter, Abbey Wood, out on Friday via Gare Du Nord Records, is the sort of mournful, quietly beautiful record that demands attention. Hayter, a member of Hefner, here makes folk-y music that channels the legacies of artists from the British folk-rock boom (the explicit Richard Thompson references in "The Stranger Fair", for example) as well as indie-rock (the guitar feedback in "At Crossness Pumping Station", for another).
Hayter uses a light, intimate touch on songs like "I Am John's Care Home", and an even more intimate one on "But I Don't Know About Frankie", an affecting spoken-word piece. The lyrical "The Mulberry Tree at Abbey Wood" suggests something from the glory days of Irish folk, Hayter's voice and guitar-plucks things from some timeless age, while the lighter-than-air "Fanny on the Hill" offers up Hayter's tremulous voice against faint strings, a combination that is, oddly, reminiscent of early Peter Gabriel recordings to these ears. Elsewhere, Hayter wisely allows guest vocalist Suzanne Rhatigan to take over lots of the singing duties on the lovely "Bigger Than The Storm", one of the strongest tunes here, while "At Crossness Pumping Station" mourns the passing of time and a changing Abbey Wood.
Jack Hayter has, in a sense, made a concept album here on Abbey Wood, and it's one that largely works even if you've never been to the neighborhood in question. Alternately soothing and gently prodding, Hayter's vocals here, and his precisely-composed songs, strike at something in an astute listener's ears, and one finds something moving here that echoes far beyond the confines of London.
Abbey Wood by Jack Hayter is out on Friday via Gare Du Nord Records.
[Photo: Uncredited 2013 photo from Jack's Facebook page]