Hayes Carll at Cedar Cultural Center, 3/30/13
Photos by Nikki Miller-Rose
With The Warren Hood Band
Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis
Saturday, March 30, 2013
He's been called a troubadour, a Guy Clark or Townes Van Zandt for the younger generation. Austin-based country singer/songwriter Hayes Carll's sold-out appearance at the Cedar Saturday night proved he's earned this title -- one that would seem too easily assigned to a man of his ilk from the Lone Star State. But the description's totally apt; perhaps it's something in the water (or the lack thereof) in Texas. Carll's vocals are dry, and cut to the heart of things. His songwriting is sincere, but never sticky in its delivery.
Carll was backed Saturday night by opening act the Warren Hood Band, with Carll mentioning late in their joint set that they'd only started playing together three nights before. Aside from a tentative glance shot from one player to the next every now and again, you wouldn't know it. From gifted (and young) fiddler/frontman Hood, to the show-stealing keyboardist Emily Gimble (granddaughter of Western Swing great Johnny Gimble), whose totally understated style belied a set of Aretha Franklin-worthy powerhouse pipes, Carll couldn't ask for a more talented backing group.
Yet standing before such an impressive bunch of players, Carll still managed to shine, and it's no small thanks to his talents as a lyricist. The guy can write a befuddlingly earnest love song without ever coming across as hackneyed. His songs display undertones of Randy Newman's wry sense of humor in the horrific, meaning in the mundane, with all Steve Earle's heartfelt delivery. And perhaps in a nod to the power behind each of his songs, Carll separated the most of them with plenty of stage banter, probably the most lengthy, yet efficient in its necessity that I've ever seen. Like his songs, each story managed to temper an emotional gut punch with a guffaw, with yarns and tall tales of lions lost in hurricanes and Croatian handball teams.
Carll's sharp sense of humor makes him a preeminent songwriter in modern country, a storyteller far beyond his 37 years. After a 22-song set that drew most heavily from his last two releases, Trouble In Mind and KMAG YOYO (a military acronym for "Kiss My Ass Guys, You're On Your Own"), Saturday night's show still seemed to end too soon; it's hard to pinpoint a single high point in the evening's performance, as Carll's laid-back style consistently charmed the largely-seated crowd from start to finish with a calm comfort and a warm, accessible energy.
Personal Bias: Carll has earned accolades from other fine (and underrated) country singer/songwriters, partnering with the likes of Ray Wylie Hubbard and Corb Lund. In a sea of often mediocre alt-country bands, Carll and his associates have truly got it.
The Crowd: Alt-country fans who truly get it.
Random Notebook Dump: [Brand redacted] tastes like [slang for anatomical body part redacted] when you've been drinking better stuff all night, and if he had a steel guitar player that'd be real cool.
Wild as a Turkey
It's a Shame
Chances Are (Or: Conway Twitty Lying Naked on a Bearskin Rug by the Fireplace in the Wintertime)
I Got a Gig
Hard Out Here
Another Like You
Live Free or Die
Bible on the Dash
Bad Liver and a Broken Heart
Love Don't Let Me Down
Ain't Enough of Me to Go Around
Drunken Poet's Dream
Wish I Hadn't Stayed So Long
She Left Me for Jesus
Stomp and Holler
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