Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Hayes Carll

  • Trouble in Mind [Lost Highway, 2008] A-
  • KMAG YOYO [Lost Highway, 2011] B+
  • What It Is [Dualtone, 2019] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Trouble in Mind [Lost Highway, 2008]
"I got a woman, she's wild as Rome," he begins, clearly and sensibly enough now that I know what he's saying. Only for a week, I thought it was "right as wrong," which suits both his worldview and the "she likes to lie naked and be gazed upon" right after. I'm not saying this history B.A. turned sin-den denizen is taking his Americana metaphysical on us. I am saying he's expanded his range a crucial quantum. A lot of wild boys have written I-don't-deserve-her songs, few put it as well as, "I spend my life on this broken crutch/And you believe I can fly." Quite a few have drawled some satire of a dumb cluck, too. But not many have put the needle to Christianity and its ignorant unbelievers at the same time. None, actually. A-

KMAG YOYO [Lost Highway, 2011]
A little too decisively to instill much hope for his love life, the rowdy songs are deeper than the thoughtful ones, especially the duet with Young Republican Cary Ann Hearst, who thinks she might screw him even though he can't afford to tip the stripper. But he does rowdy real good. And the filial "Grateful for Christmas" enters the canon of alt-country unholiday songs well ahead of the Drive-Bys' competing entry--maybe even on a level with James McMurtry's and Robert Earl Keen's. B+

What It Is [Dualtone, 2019]
Three years past the hooklessly downhearted Lovers and Leavers, the 43-year-old Texan songslinger grows up just like he hoped he would. "Beautiful Thing," "I Will Stay," and "None'ya" meld rapture, perseverance, and a sense of humor into a credible semblance of connubial progress, "Times Like These" and "Wild Pointy Finger" address the bifurcated politics any conscious Texan had better set his or her mind to, and "Fragile Men" mocks sexism with the casual authority of a rip-roaring Texan male who respects "Jesus and Elvis" whether he believes in them or not. Carll's music per se still doesn't rise above solid as often as it might. Soulwise, however, he's higher than he's ever been. B+

See Also