NPR logo Digging Up Fairy Tales with a 'Flowering Spade'

Digging Up Fairy Tales with a 'Flowering Spade'

Flowering Spade

  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Tuesday's Pick

  • Song: "Flowering Spade"
  • Artist: Sean Hayes
  • CD: Flowering Spade
  • Genre: Folk-Pop

There's always been a sweet, subtle sorcery at work in Sean Hayes' songs. hide caption

toggle caption

Alt-folk singer-songwriter Sean Hayes may not have generated much name recognition beyond the San Francisco area, where his early acoustic performances provided a welcome and humanizing respite from the tech-utopian music scene of the mid-'90s. But his spare, self-released recordings continue to earn him the devotion of both longtime fans and other musicians who share his earthy, Appalachian-influenced sensibility. (He frequently tours and performs with jazz-folk diva Jolie Holland, and last year The Be Good Tanyas covered his song "A Thousand Tiny Pieces" on the album Hello Love.)

The recent Flowering Spade is Hayes' fifth album, but it's his first bona fide studio recording. Though the sound certainly feels fleshier, lyrically he seems content to focus on love's most basic, albeit mysterious, elements. There's always been a sweet, subtle sorcery at work in Hayes' songs, and it's most evident here on the upbeat title track: "She learned to cook from a sailor / He learned to cry in the elephant circus / She found a recipe for flying / He's growing flowers to understand dying," he sings in a distinctive warble before carrying the note back over the bridge: "Rejoice... There's no such thing as dying." As the snare sounds out a locomotive rhythm, it becomes clear that this isn't the sound of leaving, but of something already well underway.

Article continues after sponsorship

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'