Friday, March 18, 2011



What a wonderful set of contradictions we find in Carll's work.  With his Hank Williams Jr. twang and semi-spoken vocals, he comes across all redneck, and while he's certainly comfortable in that club, there's an awful lot of thinking going on.  Holy crap, this guy's coming up with some actual art here, both poetic and political, and presenting it wrapped in outlaw country.  Even his party tunes have some sneaky smarts in the words:  "I'm out here in the filth and squalor/All I wanna do is stomp and holler."

He's not the first thinking country guy, but usually they come out as singer-songwriters, hanging out with Lyle Lovett and Jimmie Dale Gilmore in the Austin City Limits audience.  Carll is more of a band guy, his stuff can really rock, or it can have a big sad sound too.  He does share Lovett's irony and Gilmore's word skills, but he's equal parts Kid Rock.  Its when Carll smashes the cliche of the country-listening good old boy that he does his best work, if only because it's so different that the safe hat music still being manufactured.  The title track borrows the military abbreviation for Kiss My Ass Guys, You're On Your Own, and sees the hero in a crazy tale going from fighting the Taliban to getting involved in some Pentagon drug scheme that may or may not include space travel.  That tall tale is a laugher, but Grateful For Christmas sees a spin on the typical childhood mom and pop-and cousins and aunts and old dogs small town family holiday song, where as everybody grows older, there's actual sadness and death and change and melancholy, but still love between the singer and his now older and widowed mother.

Hayes Carll pretty much is the real deal, the singer you want all the country guys to be, the one telling truths, writing great lyrics and playing the music co-opted by Nashville 40 years ago.  If that's not enough, it's quite possible he's (gasp) a democrat.

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