Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
  And It Don't Stop
  Book Reports
  Is It Still Good to Ya?
  Going Into the City
  Consumer Guide: 90s
  Grown Up All Wrong
  Consumer Guide: 80s
  Consumer Guide: 70s
  Any Old Way You Choose It
  Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
Xgau Sez
  And It Don't Stop
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  NAJP Blog
  Rolling Stone
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
Web Site:
  Site Map
  What's New?
Carola Dibbell:
  Carola's Website
CG Search:
Google Search:

Hayes Carll

  • Trouble in Mind [Lost Highway, 2008] A-
  • KMAG YOYO [Lost Highway, 2011] B+
  • What It Is [Dualtone, 2019] B+
  • Alone Together Sessions [Dualtone, 2020] A-
  • You Get It All [Dualtone, 2021] A-

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+

Alone Together Sessions [Dualtone, 2020]
There's a redundancy problem with the acoustic but far from solo best-of that the plague's home concert boom elicited from this consistently smart and likable Arkansas bard--an "Oh yeah, that one" effect. He's good, and though it may not add much to the more fully produced versions that had already imprinted half these songs on my recall, it nails almost every one. Highlights include the anti-Donald title song of his 2019 Times Like These, the sole keeper from his down 2016 Lovers and Leavers, and duets with an irascible Ray Wylie Hubbard on the erotic "Drunken Poet's Dream" and his wife Allison Moorer on a sexy rendition of Lefty Frizzell's "That's the Way Love Goes." A-

You Get It All [Dualtone, 2021]
The opener is the jauntiest climate-change song you ever heard, only then two tracks later comes one so depressive you think about shutting the whole album down, only upon reflection you realize that in between there's a marriage song that melds both modes and also that the depressive one nails that mindstate without lionizing or minimizing it. In toto, a perfect triptych, though thereafter the album is merely mortal even if the bitter Brandy Clark duet "In the Mean Time," the sweet-and-sour "The Way I Love You," and a sanely fatalistic double finale I was relieved to see bore an Allison Moorer credit are quite all right. A-

See Also