Hayes Carll at Gruene Hall

  • March 25, 2023
  • 9:00 PM
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  • The country simplicity that imbues Hayes Carll’s songs can sometimes hide the social conscience and sharp humor that also runs through them, but if you want to find those things, they are there. In fact, Carll has spent over 20 years having a conversation about what it is we’re all doing here with anyone who will listen. He makes us laugh––but then he makes us cry. We judge a song’s protagonist, only for Carll to spin us around to commiserate with them. As a songwriter, he is in top form, turning droll confessions, messy relationships, motel room respites, and an exasperated, hitchhiking God into modern nuggets. The New York Times likened Carll’s ability to undergird humor with a weightier narrative to Bob Dylan. When Carll talks about the sounds that are in his own head, he mentions Randy Travis. That juxtaposition defines the singularity of Carll’s career: He exists in a space of his own, informed by John Prine, Tom Waits, and Dylan but also by Travis, Kenny Rogers, and Hank Williams, Jr. Those influences may have made him hard to pigeonhole, but he’s still been embraced. Two Americana Music Awards, a Grammy nomination for Best Country Song, and multiple Austin Music Awards line his resumé?. He’s had the most-played record on Americana radio twice. His songs appear on the screen regularly and have been recorded by Kenny Chesney, Lee Ann Womack, and Brothers Osborne, to name a few. You Get It All was produced by Allison Moorer and guitar legend Kenny Greenberg. Carll credits his partnership with singer, songwriter, and artist Moorer, his wife, as a force that helps both clarify what he wants and challenge self-imposed limits. Among Carll’s co-writers is singer-songwriter Brandy Clark, who helped him pen and perform “In the Mean Time,” a gorgeous, honky-tonk waltz which perfectly depicts the damage couples can inflict on each other when they’re at their worst. Rollicking through snarling 80s country guitar licks, “To Keep From Being Found” is an escape to a motel room with a TV on wheels, a bath, and line after delectable line. Subdued album closer “If It Was Up to Me” aches through a list of wishes that seem frivolous at first but build into a portrait of pain that’s far more complicated. Written with Moorer and Sean McConnell, it’s a gorgeous example of one of Carll’s favorite artistic devices: leading listeners to underestimate a character with whom they’ll ultimately empathize. Honest and sometimes subversive, but never mean-spirited, Carll keeps writing sad, funny, compelling songs in which nobody’s perfect or predictable––at least not for long. And he can’t quit wishing we’ll all realize that’s the way anything worth having or being has got to go.

    GEN ADM: $30