He's the snarky slacker with a heart of pure Kerouac. He's a modern storyteller's dream, wrapped in a cloak of country-folk charm.
Hayes Carll is the traveling Texas troubadour for today's X Generation, singing about both savage skies and serene, sun-soaked seas with ease, taking us on a joyride with songs that soften even the hardest heart in town.
And the 32-year-old's newest album is winning over critics from The New York Times to Blender: "Trouble In Mind" is a cunning collection of songs that blends the finest elements of rock, country and folk with brainy lyrics and influences from Bob Dylan to Kris Kristofferson.
Carll broke in his boots in the dark and disinterested nightclubs near Galveston, Texas, during a time when patrons preferred the ornery "outlaw country" of David Allan Coe and Merle Haggard, he said. His songwriting tackled heavy topics with a light touch. It was often autobiographical and thought-provoking. It was also often funny, incorporating idiosyncratic dialect and unusual circumstances.
"The first time I knew that music went beyond two-stepping was when I heard Bob Dylan. His music really meant a lot to me."
The tunes from his new album cover the gamut: shame, naked women, drunken poets, downtown girls, bad livers, first gigs.
"These are stories from different people's points of view," he explained during a recent telephone interview. "It's about me, but it's also about the people I've met."
And then there are those unusual similes and metaphors in his lyrics: "pretty as a plate," "wild as a turkey," "her love's like tornado weather."
"Those are phrases that I've developed from watching people and figuring out what those characters would say," he said. "They're phrases that I learned or heard while growing up in southern Texas."
In a song about being left for another man, Carll sings hilariously:
"She's given up whiskey and takin' up wine / While she prays for his troubles she's forgot about mine / I'm a gonna get even I can't handle the shame / Why last time we made love she even called out his name."
What makes it so funny is that he's singing about Jesus. Yes, that Jesus.
"It's actually about the guy I wrote the song with, Brian Keene," he said. "They went out several times, and she said, 'Before we get serious, I have to let you know that I'm already in a relationship with Jesus Christ.' Like, somehow, that changedeverything.
"People do random things because life is random, and life's what I most enjoy writing about."
with opener Corb Lund
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Cain’s Ballroom, Bob’s side stage, 423 N. Main St.
Tickets: All ages. $16 advance, $18 day of show