5 STARS for Trouble In Mind
Texas singer-songwriter Hayes Carll comes from the same fertile territory that yielded such iconic troubadours as Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark.
On Trouble in Mind, his Lost Highway debut after two independently released albums, Carll leavens his earthy sound with lyrics that boast a mixture of sass and smarts.
"Drunken Poet's Dream," the loose-limbed opener, is a bleary-eyed homage to an inspirational woman that's set amid "wine bottles scattered like last night's clothes." Musically, the greasy slide guitar and creeping tempo sound like something hatched on the tail-end of a long night.
Carll's storytelling is at its most adept on "Girl Downtown," a stripped-down acoustic folk tale about small-town romance. As he paints characters such as unlikely suitor Billy, who is "slow as a fog," Carll sounds as if he's channeling vintage John Prine.
And there's a lot of singer-songwriter Todd Snider in the closing "She Left Me for Jesus," an irreverent, but sharply funny, yarn about a girlfriend's conversion. "She says that he's perfect, how could I compare?"
If it's any consolation, Trouble in Mind shows that Carll is pretty close to perfect on his own.