Texas troubadour Hayes Carll wanted to be a writer long before he wanted to be a musician. ``When I found that I could become a songwriter and not have to do 300 pages, but maybe achieve the same kind of thing in three minutes, I dove pretty heavily into songwriters,'' Carll said.
Carll’s literary ambitions certainly found an outlet as his songs and new album ``Trouble in Mind'' (Lost Highway Records) delivers vignettes and rowdy tales with the sort of to-the-gut wallop of Guy Clark, Kris Kristofferson and Warren Zevon. Carll’s tour swings through the area April 30 when he plays at Lizard Lounge in Harvard Square.
Carll’s latest album is his third. Before his independent sophomore album, ``Little Rock,'' shot him to the top of the Americana charts in 2004, Carll, 32, had been playing small bars and rowdy shorefront clubs near his home of Crystal Beach, Texas. It’s across the bay from Galveston, where the work is hard and the audiences are not very interested in original tunes.
``I was playing what we call shrimper bars, kind of coastal beer joints,'' Carll said. ``I was also working various day jobs, then going out and singing four hours a night. That was my show business initiation, and I have to say the crowds were generally disinterested in what I was doing. But it was good training, although I’m glad my career has evolved. I did that for a couple years, and those were the toughest crowds you ever saw.''
Carll’s second record skillfully merged country and rock with colorful lyrics for a heady brew that won him critical plaudits, as well as high-profile fans like Stephen King, and fellow Texas tunesmiths Clark and Ray Wylie Hubbard, who each co-wrote a song with him on that CD. The latest album continues that hot streak, with Hubbard co-writing ``Drunken Poet’s Dream'' with Carll, and country star Darrell Scott collaborating with him on ``Willing to Love Again.'' Former Georgia Satellites frontman Dan Baird is on hand to sing and play guitar on a couple of tunes, most notably the sizzling rocker ``Bad Liver and a Broken Heart.''
Incredible as it sounds, when Carll signed with Lost Highway, he’d been on the road performing so much he didn’t have any new material ready to record.
``I wrote the first song with Darrell Scott,'' Carll said. ``I had a couple verses kicking around and I asked him to help me finish it. That got the ball rolling, and that song ``Willing to Love Again'' is kind of an apology to my wife.''
One of Carll’s most affecting originals on the CD is ``It’s a Shame,'' a song he wrote in Croatia about unrequited love and an affair that never happens. ``''
``My best friend from Texas was Croatian, and when he went back home to live he invited me over,'' Carll explained. ``I lived there for about six months in 2000, and wrote that song out of being lonely in Croatia, where no one spoke English. I think everybody has these relationships that never materialize, that always leave you wondering. I had hoped I might get some gigs over there, but it was more of a rock scene, so I just basically sat at home and wrote songs all day.''