KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories) (Lost Highway)
Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., Feb. 18, 2011
Hayes CarllKMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories) (Lost Highway)
With 2008's Trouble in Mind, Hayes Carll turned his red-dirt-caked troubadourism into a national debut garnering acclaim behind the lackadaisical humor of "She Left Me for Jesus" and Ray Wylie Hubbard co-write "Drunken Poet's Dream." The Austin songwriter's fourth album breaks beyond Texas borders again, this time with the titular acronym of "Kiss My Ass, Guys, You're On Your Own." The irreverent wit honed in the dive bars of Crystal Beach now displays the kind of maturity that bites with purpose but assuages with a wink. Carll's crackling drawl settles into these tunes like boots, whether kicking up dust on the hard rhythm of opener "Stomp and Holler" or waxing tender and affectionate in the hushed gospel rounds of piano closer "Hide Me." The new terrain and comfortable footing between the beginning and end titles includes pure dance hall glass-raisers "Hard Out Here" and "Chances Are," which conjures Willie Nelson both in guitar and sentiment, as well as "Grand Parade," carrying enough classic pop lilt in its country step to warrant Monte Warden's approval. The title track rumbles a bewildering wartime narrative that strikes like an oddly compelling collision of Gravity's Rainbow and "Copperhead Road," yet it's the opposites-attract duet with Cary Ann Hearst, "Another Like You," that may best capture the absurdity of our contemporary zeitgeist as the two trade jabs with the affectionate venom of John Prine and Iris DeMent. The banjo on "Bye Bye Baby" and the oddly Sam Baker-ish "Grateful for Christmas" seem the only pieces out of place, compensated for by the sincerity of "The Letter" and the Todd Snider- and Corb Lund-aided reel "Bottle in My Hand." Hayes Carll may be playing American schlub on the LP cover, but he's razor-sharp and ready.