Hayes Carll Warehouse Live December 28, 2010
It was almost New Year's Eve, just not cold as hell for Houston.
For the third year in a row, Woodlands native Hayes Carll shambled back from Austin for his post-Christmas show at Warehouse Live, which might explain why the night felt more like a high-school reunion than a concert. Or, given the cross-section of ages - bluehairs to young pups, scruffy indie boys to Oxford-clad future bank VPs - maybe a family reunion.
Either way, it was a party. The half of the crowd that wasn't shouting Carll's lyrics was engaged in animated conversation, couples two-stepped and twirled to "Take Me Away" and "Willing to Love Again," one girl who looked awfully young had to be helped to the restroom by her friend; another spilled beer all over Carll's posters on the merch table.
In other words, it was almost exactly the kind of situation Carll would write about in one of his songs.
Carll has a poet's gift for irony and imagery, but his dark sense of humor is leavened by an extreme affability that means his songs don't sting quite as much as someone like James McMurtry's. "Another Like You," a red-vs.-blue duet with Cary Ann Hearst on next month's LP KMAG YOYO and bassist Bonnie Whitmore Tuesday (she gave as good as she got), is too flirtatious and good-natured to give the impression that its politically star-crossed couple is headed anywhere but the sack.
The next morning, their quarters might look a lot like the room in "Drunken Poet's Dream" ("Wine bottles scattered like last night's clothes"), which lurched along like The Band; a few months later, their first trip to meet the family might turn out like jaunty acoustic foxtrot "Naked Checkers" - "Mama call the preacher, daddy call the law."
Starting with a bloodshot, acoustic "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart," the set warmed up through a couple of laid-back country shuffles, hit a Stonesy stride on "Little Rock" and straddled the line between Sticky Fingers and Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited on "Stomp and Holler," "I Got a Gig," "Faulkner Street" and the new album's title track, a military acronym for "Kiss My Ass Guys, You're On Your Own" Aftermath fully expects to be all over Sirius/XM's Outlaw Country in a few weeks.
After that, Carll and band downshifted into more acoustic territory before rallying with raucous closers "I Don't Want to Grow Up" and "Down the Road Tonight," which had a nice Hendrix quote from guitarist Scott Davis. Given the general noise level in the room, "Willing to Love Again" and "Take Me Away" might have been better appreciated at the Old Quarter or the Mucky Duck, but like we said, it didn't stop those couples in the back from dancing.
But on both the rockers and more reflective songs, Carll navigated the difference between a poet and "a drunk with a pen," as he sings on the new "Hard Out Here," with down-home charm. So far he's on the right side of that equation.
Personal Bias: Aftermath is an East Texan with a twisted sense of humor and abiding affection for Hank Williams, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Dylan and the Stones. So we're a fan.
The Crowd: We've covered that.
Overheard In the Crowd: "World champion goat roper, 1987!"
Random Notebook Dump: "Chickens," from Carll's 2004 album Little Rock, completely blew Aftermath's plan to not use the adjective "chicken fried" in this review. But it is about fried chicken.
Number of Times People Asked Aftermath Why We Were Writing In a Notebook: Twice.
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Bad Liver and a Broken Heart Hard Out Here Wild as a Turkey It's a Shame We Ain't Lovers Drunken Poet's Dream Beaumont Rivertown Little Rock Stomp and Holler I Got a Gig Faulkner St. Wild People Another Like You KMAG YOYO Naked Checkers Willing to Love Again Live Free or Die Take Me Away Chickens Highway 87 I Don't Want to Grow Up Down the Road Tonight
Girl Downtown Wish I Hadn't Stayed So Long