Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
If we're led to believe anything from the photograph on the cover of San Francisco songwriter Sean Hayes' new album, "Run Wolves Run," it's that we can feel one thousand different emotions at once. And that we're lovers of all that is danger, as well as being protectors of the utmost integrity and caliber. The sepia-toned image is one that looks to be an old memory from a scrapbook - something that had been torn and forgotten about once or twice before, but has thusly been recovered through some odd piece of luck and hoarding. It's someone as a younger person and those are always more valuable, for they quickly become the distant, distant past. We tend to cling to those photos more, thinking to ourselves, "She had her whole life in front of her at that point." This photograph shows what seems to be a vicious dog, being tackled by a plainly gorgeous young woman. The dog has its fangs - all of them, every single tooth and much of its gums - bared in an angry snarl. It looks absolutely menacing, as if at any second it would freak out even more, feeling trapped and scared, attain super strength in its hind-quarters and just kick out and attack without mercy, tearing the beautiful, angelic face of the somewhat unassuming woman from her bones. The dog looks mad and we don't like the looks of any of it, but we love the looks of the woman. We're hoping that this turns out well for all. We wish the dog no harm and this is likely just a little playful wrestling match, but captured as it is on film, it looks serious. We're mostly hoping that this woman, who's holding the dog so tenderly below its chin, as if she were in a medical, nursing a wound position, is going to go unscathed. We're hoping that no ill befalls her. We love her. We're adrift in all these thoughts and yet, the violent aspect of the scene is just as intriguing. What if something did happen? What if this was the very last piece of photographic evidence of the woman in her most pristine beauty? We're not sure, nor will we ever be. The music that Sean Hayes chose to put onto the album that this photograph and cover accompany is of similar duality, where his voice acts as a lightning rod, the pointy part at the top of a house that's going to absorb the fury of a natural disaster and diffuse the powerful hit and save the house, made of wood and insulation from sparking and going up into ashes. Hayes' voice is the way the woman on the cover, roughhousing with this ferocious beast looks: calm and cool, as if no one knows better what they're doing at this given second. Hayes has a sound that's a cross between Dan Aurbach and something that can exist in both Laurel Canyon and New Orleans at the same time - a mutt of a sound, if there ever was one - though it comes off as a land of misfit soul that will get us every damned time. "When We Fall In," the lead track on the new record, is an instant classic, killing us with expert call and response and a tame and cunning bit of melody, all packed into an old Motown casing that makes us love instantaneously and deeply. It's the same as what the woman on the cover's trying to soothe the angry dog with. It must be and we believe it will work. Hayes sings, "Holding honey in her hand/Whoa whoa/I'm your man, I'm your man/Freeze the reflection from the glass/Forever rising/Forever dying/Forever rising," on that song and it's embarrassing how much we're immediately struck, immediately taken in and wrestled to the ground. We will be subdued, like the puppy dog. Hayes, the beautiful girl - we don't care - they'll calm us right down and soon we'll just be playfully tumbling around, grass stains all around.