Boston Globe: Live Review
A double dose of tough and tender country-folk
April 26, 2011
By Stuart Munro
JASON ISBELL and HAYES CARLL
At: Brighton Music Hall, Saturday
In these still-perilous economic times, it would be hard to think of a better value for your hardearned entertainment dollar than Saturday night’s Jason Isbell/Hayes Carll double bill at the Brighton Music Hall. That sentiment was shared by enough folks to leave no tickets available at the door.
Isbell and Carll have been co-headlining and swapping the closer’s slot on recent dates together. sbell drew the earlier time Saturday evening, and he and his band the 400 Unit made good use of their allotted hour, playing a set that combined new material with what he’s left behind.
His new record, “Here We Rest,’’ continues his move toward a more acoustic and countrified sound than the Southern rock-and-soul amalgam of the band from which he amicably departed four years ago, the Drive-By Truckers. Live, however, Isbell and company gave tougher takes to “Go It Alone,’’ “Alabama Pines,’’ and the other new songs he played. That was mitigated — but only a little — by swapping out electric bass and keys for bass fiddle and accordion to pull in the rueful, aching lope at the center of one of the new album’s best songs, “Codeine.’’
No adjustments were necessary for his look back to his Drive-By Truckers material, though — back-to-back, blistering renditions of “Never Gonna Change’’ (which came with an interpolation of Hendrix’s “Stone Free’’) and “[Expletive]Lonely Love,’’ later followed by what might be his most enduring contribution to the Truckers’ catalog, “Outfit.’’ That there were plenty of Isbell fans in the house was evident from the cheers of recognition that erupted during his set and the number of mouths opening to sing along. But at the end of the night, it was a Hayes Carll crowd. Carll took advantage of the closer’s extended time to play for two hours, including all but one of the 12 songs from his just-released “KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories).’’ That provided a perfect demonstration of the ground he covers: high-test honky tonk (“Hard Out Here’’), Haggard-esque sounds and sentiments (“Bottle in My Hand’’), rock ’n’ roll racket (“Stomp and Holler’’), and delicate, gospel-flecked folk (“Hide Me’’).
There was plenty of time, too, for Carll’s deadpan asides and amplifications, whether he was apologizing for the potential blasphemy of playing “She Left Me for Jesus’’ during Easter (while pointing out that the trouble with irony is that not everyone gets it), or suggesting that his hilarious character-sketch duet “Another Like You’’ responds to the divisiveness of the contemporary political climate by focusing on what unites us —“physical attraction and alcohol.’’
Those who showed up early enough got not only the one-two punch of Isbell and Carll, but a prefatory treat: the yee-haw stomp of duo Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, who perform as Shovels & Rope.