Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., June 17, 2005
Little Rock (Highway 87)
Somewhere, not too deep inside Houston native Hayes Carll, lives a very old soul with a pair of dice in hand. It's obvious from his wearied tenor on "Wish I Hadn't Stayed So Long," opening his second album, Little Rock, that this soul has something to say and that we must listen. That's because layered evenly between Carll's world-weary wisdom and pristine melodies lies the sweet promise that good writers always make: Listen to my words and their truth will set you free or at least make life a bit easier. At least that's what Carll has been doing, soaking up good writers like Guy Clark and Ray Wylie Hubbard, who turned up to co-author "Rivertown" and "Chickens" respectively. That helps make Little Rock an Americana gem, with songs like "Down the Road Tonight," "Long Way Home," and the title track making life a little easier. Much of Carll's charm is his between-set patter, regrettably missing on disc, yet the strengths of his compositions are such that they need no padding. And the dice in hand? They're Hayes Carll's willingness to gamble that the well-worn singer-songwriter genre can make room for one more.