Long Drive Home, the debut album by Tennessee guitarist Ralph E. Hayes, is not easy to categorize. Although moody and relaxed, this instrumental disc isn't new age, nor is Hayes a flamboyant, hell-bent-for-chops hard rock shredder in Steve Vai/Joe Satriani/Randy Coven vein. And he isn't an acoustic folk-rock picker along the lines of John Fahey, Leo Kottke, Peter Lang, or Stefan Grossman. So exactly where does Hayes' instrumental rock fit in? Arguably, Long Drive Home should be described as neo-surf rock. Hayes' electric guitar playing owes a lot to Dick Dale and Duane Eddy -- the '60s influence is quite strong on this 2004 release, and Hayes is obviously well aware of the Ventures, the Challengers, and other surf bands that were popular back then. But Long Drive Home isn't a carbon copy of '60s surf rock any more than Alicia Keys is a carbon copy of her '70s influences, and at times, Long Drive Home almost suggests Chris Isaak without vocals. You won't find anything as exuberant as "Wipeout" or "Hawaii Five-O" (two Ventures hits) on this CD; Hayes' instrumentals are reflective, shadowy, and laid-back, which is why he likes to describe his style as "guitar noir." That term, of course, is based on the term film noir, but Long Drive Home doesn't sound like background music from '40s film noir classics such as Laura, The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Gilda -- if anything, Hayes' work owes more to the sort of background music one might have expected from a Dennis Hopper movie in the '60s or '70s. Long Drive Home falls short of exceptional, but it's a likable, fairly intriguing debut for the Tennessee guitarist.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson