The Austin Chronicle

Record Reviews

Reviewed by Christopher Hess, November 24, 2000, Music

Adam Carroll

Lookin' Out the Screen Door (Down Hole)

The sophomore release from East Texas singer-songwriter Adam Carroll is bulging at the belt with everything that made his debut, South of Town, such a good time: able strumming, fine singing, and enough stories to satisfy a dozen campfires. Though compared extensively to Townes Van Zandt, Carroll seems to have more in common with Texas troubadours Ray Wylie Hubbard or Butch Hancock, with their penchants for long, rolling-narrative country-folk tunes whose tales hinge on a particular hook in the chorus. Not to imply that Carroll's (or Hubbard's or Hancock's) songs are formulaic -- on the contrary, they contain and explore endless possibilities for lyrical reference and connection. While his songs often belie his age, sometimes they do not. "Blondie and Dagwood" is one such instance, a sentimental ode to exactly what you're thinking. It doesn't work. Neither does "Hunter's Song," though one line does offer some explanation of the occasional unevenness of Screen Door: "It's hard to get along when your same damn songs don't say just what you mean anymore." More often than not, however, Carroll's conventions do work. Cowboy Bob, the Sno-Cone Man, Scarface, Race Car Joe -- Carroll is quickly building his own mythology, his own catalog of East Texas archetypes and legends. The construction of characters is definitely one of this young songwriter's strong points, each of them reflecting the faith in man and his ultimate capacity for love. Hopeful ain't a bad way to be.


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