Album review: Hayes Carll, "KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories)"
If 2008's "Trouble in Mind" heralded him as an heir to the Dylan-inspired singer-songwriter school of John Prine and Guy Clark, this follow-up finds Austin-based Hayes Carll setting some standards of his own. The album's title track - its name taken from a military acronym for "Kiss My [Expletive] Guys, You're on Your Own" - introduces a conflicted U.S. recruit in Afghanistan. "I knew I'd be in trouble, but I didn't know it would be this bad," he tells himself, bemoaning his - and the greater global - predicament over careening backbeats and squalling electric guitar.
"Grand Parade" is lilting country-rock reminiscent of Willis Alan Ramsey and Lyle Lovett at their whimsical best. "Another Like You," a politically charged duet with singer Cary Ann Hearst, rivals the jousting byplay of John Prine and Iris Dement's "In Spite of Ourselves." In "Grateful for Christmas," a woozy talking blues, Carll offers a snapshot of a holiday homecoming where, among other things, the presents are wrong and "the pie don't taste right," and yet he gives thanks anyway.
The record begins on a defiantly blue-collar note. "Most folks earn what they get for a living/Others just steal what they need," shouts Carll, all but drowned out by a blistering blues guitar run. The insight isn't as incendiary - or prophetic - as the line "Steal a little and they throw you in jail/Steal a lot and they make you king" (from Dylan's "Sweetheart Like You"), but with its strong sense of underdog justice, it's close.
Recommended tracks: "Stomp and Holler," "KMAG YOYO," "Grateful for Christmas"
| February 15, 2011; 12:20 PM ET
Categories: Quick spins | Tags: Hayes Carll
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