San Diego Preview: Hayes Carll
Hayes Carll, at 32, is poised to join the pantheon of great Texas songwriters. Last week, his remarkable third album, "Trouble in Mind," was nominated for an Americana Music Award, with Carll earning another nod for the hilarious song "She Left Me for Jesus," co-written with Brian Keane.
Just don't be in too much of a hurry, Carll says, to add him to a list that includes Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Joe Ely, Lyle Lovett and the late Townes Van Zandt.
"I think I've got a long way to go," he protested by phone from a tour stop in Omaha, Neb. "On one hand, I'm a sixth-generation Texan who grew up listening to those guys and is pretty heavily influenced by them. So, in one aspect I'd say 'Yes.' Am I there with their canon of work? No, I don't think I'm even close to being in the conversation yet."
Carll introduces himself on his new album, which follows his heralded 2002 indie debut, "Flowers and Liquor," and the self-released "Little Rock," with "Drunken Poet's Dream," where his rugged delivery recalls Earle and the imagery seems haunted by the spirit of Townes. (Carll composed the song with Ray Wylie Hubbard, another Lone Star State writing great.)
There's an autobiographical tone to "Dream" and many other songs on "Trouble in Mind," chronicling Carll's "misspent youth."
Growing up in a Houston suburb, he went to Arkansas' Hendrix College, where he studied theater, before paying his music dues in Crystal Beach, a small Gulf Coast town near Galveston. Carll remembers that experience, of playin' for my supper six nights a week, on the vivid "I Got a Gig."
"I grew up in a suburban enclave, not a place where you're going to get a lot of Jack Kerouac books out of. So, I was just dying for some real-life experience and wanted to be able to go out and try my hand at being a performer and songwriter. I got out of school and I really didn't have any place to go," Carll said.
"So, I figured I'd just go down there and lay low for a while, be by the ocean and just work on writing songs."
Carll's work paid off.
His songs can be touching or, in one inspired case, downright irreverent: "She Left Me for Jesus" sends up one clueless individual's reaction to his girlfriend's new soulmate: If I ever find Jesus, the song goes, He's gonna wish he were dead.
Co-writer Keane, Carll said, "told me this story about a guy he knew who had gone on a date with this girl, and before they went out, she said, 'Before we go any further, I need to ask you if you're prepared to handle my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.' And we thought, What if the answer was 'No'? Then, we started going downhill from there.
"We started thinking, what if the guy didn't know who Jesus was and what kind of confusion would that lead to, if he was a prejudiced redneck?"
Carll added. "We had about three other verses, but we decided we'd done enough damage already."
Old 97's, with Hayes Carll and I Love Math
When: June 20, 8 p.m.
Where: House of Blues, 1055 Fifth Ave.,
Phone: (619) 299-2583 or (619) 220-TIXS