We freely admit we are homers, as big a fans of Hayes Carll as Milo Hamilton is of the Astros, but the Press isn't the only media outlet in the country impressed by Carll's first Lost Highway album, Trouble in Mind. The album, which featured the Americana Music Association's song of the year, "She Left Me For Jesus," was Amazon.com's #1 country album, R&R Americana album of the year, and Amazon's #9 album overall. It also scored a #2 in the annual poll of No Depression writers, as well as a #2 in Mojo's Americana Top 10.
The ever uppity Austin Chronicle tapped Trouble In Mind its #3 Local Album of the Year in spite of a colder-than-tepid original review by longtime Chronc music scribe Jim Caligiuri. Perhaps the biggest compliment of all was crotchety morning talk show king Don Imus proclaiming Carll's "She Left Me For Jesus" the greatest country song ever.
Anyway, we've collected everything we can about Carll and the album below, and the list is mighty impressive for a guy with the image of a slacker from The Woodlands.
1. Blender - 33 Best Albums of 2008 #33 Trouble in Mind He's kind of a loser, and dim like an old truck's headlights. When his girl leaves him for Jesus, Hayes Carll vows revenge if he sees Him around town. In a long Southern tradition, this 32-year-old Texan is just playin' possum; his unshaven romps mix in banjo or feisty slide guitar, finding comedy and tragedy in barrooms from Beaumont to Henrietta.
2. Esquire - The 5 Best Songs You (Probably) Didn't Hear This Year "She Left Me For Jesus" - "She says I should find Him and I'll know peace at least / If I ever find Jesus I'm kickin' His ass." Pansy-ass country-radio programmers screamed blasphemy, but the true offense was denying their audience this song.
3. Los Angeles Times - Pop & Hiss 2008 Shelf List "As mainstream country grows further away from its "rustic" roots (nothing wrong with that, I love it), the traditional approach is being rethought by younger practitioners: The best include the whiskey-voiced Alabama gal Ashton Shepherd, the self-styled drunken poet Hayes Carll and Steve Earle's crafty son, Justin Townes Earle.
4. Philadelphia Inquirer - Best Of 2008 #6 Trouble in Mind (Lost Highway). On his first major-label album, Hayes Carll steps up his scruffy, Texas-troubadour game into Guy Clark-Steve Earle-Townes Van Zandt territory, with a dash of John Prine for good measure. By turns luckless in love ("Beaumont") and proud as a peacock ("I Got a Gig"), Carll's got a keen eye for detail and good taste in covers (Tom Waits' "I Don't Want to Grow Up"). "She Left Me for Me Jesus" ("Why, last time we made love she even called out his name"), is the most amusing, mildly blasphemous country song in memory. Download: "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart."
5. Arkansas Democrat Gazette - An Unruly Top 10 #2 Hayes Carll, Trouble in Mind, Lost Highway - Carll, a fellow Hendrix alumnus, made a Texas singer-songwriter album that was smarter and funnier than anything else this year. Also, do yourself a favor and find the videos on YouTube that capture Carll's sardonic stage patter.
6. Newsday - Top 10 Backstage Moments #9 Hayes Carll (May 1, Bowery Ballroom): "I don't have a lot of love songs," Carll told the Bowery Ballroom crowd. "I have a lot of sex songs." And he delivered them well - along with his great songs about drinking, playing in bars and love gone wrong.
7. Rochester Democrat and Chronicle - Favorite Albums Texas troubadour Hayes Carll reminds me of so many of the greats, my head spins like it's full of whiskey. I hear John Prine, Todd Snider, Townes Van Zandt and Tom Waits (he covers a Waits song, "I Don't Wanna Grow Up"). Carll writes from an eloquently poetic, buzz-hazy, lazy, downtrodden point of view, dropping lines of universal clarity, whether he writes 'em or borrows 'em, as though they were empty liquor bottles. "Doesn't anybody speak about truth anymore? Maybe that's what songs are for."
8. Nashville Scene - Top 10 Country Albums The title of the opening song, "Drunken Poet's Dream," tips off the perspective of this 32-year-old singer-songwriter from South Texas. With the wry, wise voice of an educated rounder, he tackles liquor, wild women, lost weekends and the perils of strutting and stumbling through life. Carll sings colorfully and believably about experiences most modern country singers ignore -- or hide.
9. Denver Westword - Favorite National Albums Carll is capable of penning some of the most guffaw-worthy ditties imaginable. For proof, sample the honky-tonk lament "She Left Me for Jesus." Yet he's just as credible a tunesmith when he explores the darker side of life, as on "Don't Let Me Fall," or uses witty lines for deeper purposes, as he does throughout "Drunken Poet's Dream."
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10. Charleston Post and Courier - Best Albums Hayes Carll's song, "She Left Me for Jesus," in which the song's protagonist laments the loss of his girlfriend after she finds religion, is the year's best country tune. Other songs, including "Drunken Poet's Dream" and "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart," demonstrate Carll's range as a performer. After a couple of albums of great material that somehow never got noticed, it is good to see genuinely great songwriting finally get recognized.
11. Birmingham Weekly - Brett Thompson's 2008 Best-of List Following in the footsteps of fellow Texas storytellers Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Billy Joe Shaver, Carll effectively combines humor and heartbreak on tracks including "She Left Me For Jesus" and "Bad Liver And A Broken Heart."
12. The Patriot Ledger (Boston) - Tune's That Made '08 Great" A new name to us, but one we'll not be forgetting, as this Texan brings a bit of Warren Zevon weirdness to his rambling troubadour tales. The hilarious tune ``She Left Me for Jesus'' got plenty of notice, but ``Drunken Poet's Dream'' and ``I Got a Gig'' were equally worthy. And then there's ``Bad Liver and a Broken Heart,'' either the best tear-in-your-beer song, or the best parody of a tear-in-your-beer song, ever.
And homers -- and Carll fans -- that we are, Carll and Trouble In Mind received a mention in our own year-end wrap up.