Friday, May 20, 2011

If you buy just one non-mainstream album this year

Let it be this one.

I know, I know, I'm not going out on a limb here, but this album is great.

If you are a fan of smooth-voiced singers, Carll is not for you.  He's closer to Robert Earl Keen than George Strait, as far as that goes.

If you prefer your country music happy and upbeat, this album probably isn't the one for you.  There are upbeat songs here, but they're not necessarily happy songs--the album opener "Stomp and Holler" has a catchy rhythm (and chorus) and involves a robber taking a left instead of a right and catching "a bullet running from the guitar store."

The title cut is another of the same type.  Overly-patriotic folks may have issues with it, but if you've ever been closer to the military than looking at that picture of Michael Dukakis in a tank, you'll probably be okay with it.  It's sort of an amusing run-through of some of the darker stuff in the military's past, but it's also a clear-eyed look at things in a way--the lyrics are in that link, but I'll give away the opening lines for you: "Daddy joined the Air Force, said it was a good source of danger love and money but it only led to divorce."  The whole thing is pretty much like that.

One of my favorite things about Carll is his sense of humor (see: "She Left Me For Jesus").  It's evident in quite a few songs in this album, including the two just mentioned, but also "Another Like You", a duet with the similarly-voiced Cary Ann Hearst.  If you don't laugh at the line "Were you flirting with the stripper 'cause you can't afford to tip her or just afraid of being alone", something is wrong with you.  But I think this is a song most people will either love or hate.  It's like the drunken cousin of "Jackson," if that song included politics and references to sex (which are mostly subtle enough, for the record, that my five-year-old is singing along).

He's best, though, when singing the type of song I think country music is the best at--slow and sad love songs.  While I get a kick out of his kickier stuff, it's when he slows down that he really shines.  Amazon's user reviews bring a comparison to Billy Joe Shaver for the album track "The Letter", which seems pretty apt; the album closer, "Hide Me" is another slow one.  The best of them and the best song on the album as far as I am concerned, is this one, which is sad and hopeful all at the same time:


Bob said...

I think he was in Charlotte Recently, although I didn't go to see him. At one time I had a GF that left me for Jesus, too. She went from Wicca to Church of Christ, which was a pretty extreme change, if you know what I mean.

Anonymous said...

I really like Hayes Carll's voice; I've said before that he reminds me a lot of Billy Joe Shaver. Yeah, I know, another gravelly voice, but they both make it work really well. :-)

kx59 said...

Liking it a lot. thanks for the post.
I'm cherry picking his mp3's at walmart dot com as I type.
I'm a REK fan and a Steve Earl fan as well, but I've worn them out. New blood is good. Thanks!