Adam Carroll, Gallery Lombardi Lounge

Wednesday Night

Adam Carroll

Gallery Lombardi Lounge

Thirty-three. That was the number of people inside the Gallery Lombardi Lounge when Adam Carroll took the stage. It's no stretch to say that kismet clearly ain't on your side when you draw a Wednesday night slot in the SXSW lottery. Going up against the music awards in any town would be a bummer, but when you factor in the incestuous quotient of Austin (extremely high) and the fact that one out of every three people gets to wear a Day-Glo orange sticker with the word "Winner" and a silhouette of Doug Sahm emblazoned across it to the party, who wouldn't want to attend? Plus, when Carroll stepped on the stage, he looked like lethargy incarnate. That's not exactly the best way to storm the stage and make your memorable first SXSW impression. But once he started strumming chords, he was instantly alluring and, better yet, unmistakably Texan (hey, if you got the home field advantage, work it). After coming off like Woody Guthrie for one song (no, he's not Texan), he immediately settled into a groove that was 75% John Prine and one-quarter Townes Van Zandt. It's not hyperbole to drop those names, because first, Carroll has a voice that's about 20 years older than his face (not to mention a Steve Forbert rasp for a kicker) and a pen that's got another decade on that; and second, like Prine, Carroll has the rare ability to do silly without being corny. His "Mr. Snow Cone Man," backed up against his song about meeting Jesus in his jail cell, showed the even rarer ability to pull off both irony and sincerity with equal deftness. It was only when he strayed into the obligatory Louisiana song (hell, every Texan writes at least one at some point) that Carroll was no longer convincing. The phrases which at other times seemed so true -- and what native Lone Star wouldn't appreciate a line like "$3.65 for a can of snuff was poorly spent"? -- were all of a sudden borrowed and boring. But it was a hiccup in an otherwise stirring set of story-songs that would give Robert Earl Keen fanatics and Guy Clark aficionados alike reason to listen. No, it was bad luck for Carroll to draw the spot he did, because like Ryan Adams, he's got not only the worldly sense of someone well beyond his years, but the ability to put it into song without sounding trite or melodramatic. But hell, by set's end, even the punk rockers from the Beerland showcase outside had filtered in and, off a song and a half, were giving Carroll his due applause.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Music Reviews
Texas Platters
Kinky Friedman
Resurrection (Record Review)

Rick Weaver, Jan. 3, 2020

Texas Platters
The Beaumonts / Hickoids
This Is Austin, All the World's a Dressing Room (Record Review)

Kevin Curtin, Jan. 3, 2020

More by Michael Bertin
Margaret Moser Tribute: Kathy Valentine
Kathy Valentine
Right place, right time, right woman to share the joy with

June 30, 2017

SXSW Live Shot: Mark Kozelek
SXSW Live Shot: Mark Kozelek
Little packages of just-so honesty

March 15, 2014

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle