BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Hayes Carll: Trouble in Mind (Lost Highway)

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Hayes Carll: Girl Downtown
BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008:  Hayes Carll: Trouble in Mind (Lost Highway)

You'd think with strip malls, fast food franchises, saturation low-cost reality television and the widespread levelling out of mainstream culture that guys like Carll would have been ironed out of American life

But he's one of those crinkles in the texture, an alt.country-cum-trad.country guy who is a little early Steve Earle and Joe Ely, and a bit of Basement Tapes Bob Dylan, but also very much his own ramblin' travellin' man with stories to tell which come with dirty fingernails and empty bottles on the floor.

Song titles give you a clue: Bad Liver and a Broken Heart (not the Tom Waits song although he covers Tom's I Don't Wanna Grow Up which shows good taste), Wild as a Turkey, Knockin' Over Whiskeys, She Left Me For Jesus . . .

Carll looks young enough in the cover photos (he's in his early Thirties) but his gruff Mid-West voice has a lived-in quality and here, with some excellent assistance, he spirals out into glistening, road-riding country rock (It's a Shame), down into backwoods balladry (the backporch banjo-driven Girl Downtown) and some knowing, confessional writing (Willing to Love Again, the weary Don't Let Me Fall).

The world is getting cluttered with albums which chart this territory but few are as convincing or as enjoyable as this. The best in the genre since Ryan Bingham and one which will get multiple plays if it finds a place in your collection.

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