Over nearly two decades, Hayes Carll established himself with an astute amalgam of original material reflecting humor, heart, and an independent spirit befitting his Texas roots. His flair for blending the grittier side of Americana with the sounds of classic outlaw country is particularly apparent on the sardonic “Nice Things,” driven by a relentless, roaring arrangement straight out of Waylon Jennings.
Carll and guitarist Kris Donegan handle much of the acoustic strumming, while Nashville session vet Kenny Greenberg plays the leads. Greenberg stands out on the foreboding, bayou-flavored “Different Boats,” unleashing a screaming break in the middle. On “You Get It All,” he enhances Carll’s vocal with an emphatic acoustic interlude. Playing pedal steel, Greenberg and guitarist Adam Landry complement “In the Meantime,” Carll’s duet with singer/songwriter Brandy Clark.
Dementia is the subject of “Help Me Remember.” Written by Carll and Josh Morningstar, it’s a powerful performance, sung from a victim’s pained, fearful viewpoint. His understated vocal and the minimalist arrangement render it unforgettable. Greenberg generates sparks with a snarling outburst in the midst of Carll’s Jerry Lee Lewis-style rocker “To Keep from Being Found.” The moody, intimate “The Way I Found You” also benefits from Greenberg’s and Donegan’s tasteful acoustic playing.
This article originally appeared in VG’s December 2021 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.