There have been a lot of reviews written already about the new Hayes Carll album, Trouble in Mind. It is no doubt an album that fully establishes him as an artist. Exactly what it establishes him as is what I would like to address. A lot of the Texas Troubadours are getting older. Some like Townes Van Zandt and Doug Sahm are no longer with us. When you consider artists like Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, Ray Wilie Hubbard and many more I could name if time allowed, it begs one question. Who is leading the next generation?
It is an interesting question and definitely open for debate. In any case Hayes Carll is in the discussion. In fact, I feel he is the leader of the pack. His body of work is three albums deep now and shows that he has all of the elements to carry the torch of the aforementioned legends. What are these elements? What does Hayes Carll have in common with these legends? What he possesses is more that just geography. In fact, the Texas Music scene has developed to the point that you no longer need to be from Texas. Refugees are now accepted as long as they have talent. Take a guy like Adam Hood. He is a fellow Alabamian who has been adopted by the Red Dirt Scene.
First and foremost Carll can dish out the requisite humor. Why is humor so important? To answer that go to a Guy Clark show and see how many fans request “Texas Cookin.’” The scene will be repeated at other shows by other artists. The humorous lighthearted songs get requested most. There is nothing more important than bringing laughter into the lives of fans. No doubt part of the reason people love music is escape. Humor helps relieve stress better than anything. Another quality Carll has in common with the great troubadours, is that he doesn’t need a full band. His songs stand on there own. An acoustic guitar and maybe a microphone, depending on the venue, is all that is needed. Sure a band helps but is not required.
Hayes Carll is also a great storyteller. The characters in his songs are often as important as the music. This brings to mind Clark, Townes, Ely etc. Moreover, just like his influences and idols, his lyrics and stories reflect perspective on life as it is lived by real people. Some of his characters may be extreme but everyone can relate to them. No esoteric lyrics, cryptic meanings or elitist intellectualism. Just real life as it is lived by real people with real struggles.
There are certainly a lot of good young song-writers out there, but Hayes Carll seems to be carrying the torch for the next generation of the Texas /Americana Troubadours.