I haven’t seen either Hayes or Jason play in several years; Hayes because he wasn’t touring here, and Jason for a variety of other reasons, but they’re currently touring together in support of new albums and playing the Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh on 4/19. Behind the jump, short reviews of both and some details about the show.
Hayes Carll — KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories): Hayes Carll put out one of the best pure country albums a few years ago, 2007’s Trouble In Mind, and while KMAG YOYO opens with a track called “Stomp & Holler”, it’s a much more rock and roll album than his previous records. He’s still got that Texas twang, all that slide guitar, but the drums and the bass drive the tracks along in a way that recalls Dylan going electric (and the title track even pays direct homage to Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”). There’s still pure country songs, like the gorgeous pedal steel infused slow down “Chances Are”, but he’s a better tour pairing for Jason with this album than I would have expected. It’s mostly uptempo and rocky, and I love seeing an artist grow and pull in new influences like that. Hayes continues to get better as a musician and a songwriter with every album, and that’s what I want from musicians that I love. An easy early contender for my top 10.
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit — Here We Rest: The best thing that I can say about this album is that hot damn, album opener “Alabama Pines” may be the best song that Isbell’s ever written — and the music is fantastic. The final three tracks, instrumentally, are as clever and intricate as Jason and his band(s) have ever done, and they deserve so much better than the pedestrian lyrics they’ve been saddled with. One of my favorite things about Isbell as a songwriter is that I wasn’t usually able to predict the next line, or verse, or chorus; on Here We Rest, not only can I predict half the lyrics, I might be able to write better, and I am no kind of songwriter. It’s not an album without its virtues — “Alabama Pines” is stunning, and “Codeine” has a catch and a cleverness to it that I expect from him — but it’s not the best work that Jason’s done, not by a mile. I wanted it to be an album I could fall in love with and forgive with, and all it’s done is made me bored. I hear the new stuff is way better live — I can only hope so. One thing that Jason’s always done, regardless of who he was playing with or what he was playing, is put on a live show that’s fiery.
Shovels & Ropes, the name that Cary Ann Hearst & Michael Trent sometimes play together under, opens. Tuesday, April 19. Doors at 7 and show at 7:30. Tix $14 in advance via eTix and $17 at the door. Should be a rockin’ night.