‘The Longest Day’ is the title track of Toby Hay’s new record which was released on the longest day on 21st June 2018. Many of us fell in love with last year’s ‘The Gathering’, which was a superb album of guitar instrumentals full of grace and beauty that delighted anyone who listened to it. If ‘The Gathering’ was anything, it was about Hay’s homeland and his connection to the landscape. It was an album of belonging.

‘The Longest Day’ finds Toby Hay travelling and moving. The result is an album of change. The title track is trademark Hay with ringing twelve strings and a gentle melody reflecting the bucolic horizons of Toby’s surroundings and his nature rambles
With ‘Bear’s Dance’ (Bear is his faithful hound) comes the sense of a wider canvas and perhaps a bigger vision. A Celtic-flavoured violin appears courtesy of David Grubb and is a welcome addition to Hay’s guitar, bringing a livelier feel than we are used to. The resulting combination is both joyful and energetic.

If you were fortunate to catch Toby Hay on tour last year, you will recognise the opening notes to ‘Leaving Chicago’, his take on arriving in America and a train journey through the heart of the land. This album version expands the original recording to include, for the first time, a full band. And it works. The composition takes on a whole new life full of imagination and energy, a theme continued on ‘Marvin the Mustang from Montana’, which paints a picture of journeying in unfamiliar and adventurous landscape. A country style fiddle adds an extra dimension to the familiar guitar getting the foot tapping. This is a big step from the rurality of ‘The Gathering’ but reflects the creative and reflective attitude of the musician. Being on the road and travelling has allowed Toby Hay to be more expansive and creative.

‘Late Summer in Boscastle’ is a surprise element on the album, and a smoky laid-back affair reminiscent of John Martyn’s ‘One World’ period. It features superb saxophone from Gregg Sterling along with sensitive double bass Aidan Thorne) and drums (Mark O’Connor). This is a stunning atmospheric jazz piece you will return to, often perhaps late in the evening with a good single malt. The symbiosis here is remarkable and a totally unexpected diversion.

‘Curlew Part 1’ and ‘Curlew Part 2’ have a familiar opening to those who know its tune, but given the full band treatment the songs takes on a completely new life. The minimal feel of the original is replaced with a vintage 1970’’s folk rock feel that is very acceptable. ‘Curlew Part 1’ reflects sense of the ancient ways, and olden customs permeates this two-part suite. Violin and bass tangle with saxophone often mimicking the call of the curlew while the drums give a tribal and Celtic rhythmic feel almost as if Toby Hay was returning home. Perhaps that was the intention all along. ‘Curlew Part 2' is all about the guitar. It is a reflective and atmospheric piece.

The album closes with ‘At the Bright Hem of God’. This is classic Toby Hay. He has a great ability to make time stand still and to bring the soul of the land into your life. You can taste the fresh air, you can see for miles out on the hills, the land, the water. Nature. It is all here in this final eulogy to homecoming.

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