Trouble in Mind

Amidst the slew of completely over-poppy, over-produced, and underwhelming new Carrie Underwoods and Jason Aldeans, and the once great sellouts of yesteryear like Tim McGraw and Toby Keith, there are a few genuine country singers striving to make do, living from gig to gig and building a reputation for authentic southern tunes. While they’re often classified as Americana singers or even Bluegrass or Rock these select few are the ones that can bring the downhome “yeehaw”-ness of Southern living to honest, emotional life. Hayes Carll’s new album, Trouble In Mind, proves that he’s just such a singer.

Opening with a tune he co-wrote with the legendary Ray Wylie Hubbard, Carll sings the accolades of a woman who declares, “You be the sinner honey I’ll be the sin.” This first track, “Drunken Poet’s Dream”, sets the stage for an album of raucous country ditties involving plenty of alcohol, drugs, and other typical indulgences of Texas musicians. Unlike most mainstream country music, which is usually crafted very carefully by studio executives for a typically right-leaning conservative market, Carll tells it like it is, laying his emotions and his bad habits on the line with wry wit and an achingly honest voice.

Though this is Carll’s third album, it’s his first with Lost Highway Records (the label of Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams, and Lyle Lovett) and it’s clear he’s found a perfect musical home for his endearingly twangy style. Distinctly Texan, with songs titled “Beaumont” and extensive references to Carll’s time in Crystal Beach in “I Got a Gig,” Trouble In Mind will easily resonate with residents of the Lone Star State, but should still find an audience across the nation with songs about love, loss, and missed connections.

The entire album is constructed of one catchy ditty after another, from the jocular throwback “Girl Downtown” to the melancholy entreaty “Don’t Let Me Fall;” Carll has covered his bases on country music stylings. But it’s the final track, the impossibly catchy and comically irreverent “She Left Me For Jesus” that truly sets Carll unarguably apart from other similar musicians. The track could be dismissed by some as a simple joke or by others as blasphemous , but to me it’s one of the most perfectly constructed and genuinely hilarious country songs I’ve ever laid ears upon. The fact that Carll can support this song with an entire album of sincerely heartfelt music only gives the dry comedy of “Jesus” an even deeper place in my musical heart.

To those looking for a fresh new artist and an album of unmistakable musical value, all I can say is I’ve got Trouble In Mind.

Zach’s Rating: A
Perfect For: Purveyors of true country music
Stay Away if: You really enjoyed Carrie Underwood’s last album
Buy this on Itunes: “She Left Me For Jesus”

To purchase Trouble in Mind, visit Amazon

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