Adam Carroll and Adam Carroll & Michael O'Connor
Live at Flipnotics, and Hard Times
Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., May 7, 2010
Adam CarrollLive at Flipnotics
Adam Carroll & Michael O'ConnorHard Times
Among singer-songwriters, Adam Carroll is probably Austin's best-kept secret. His tunes are marvels of economy; the John Prine comparisons are probably overdone at this point but remain completely relevant. Carroll's views of life in today's Texas, specifically the eastern part of the state where he grew up, are constantly inventive and decidedly offbeat. Recorded last spring, Live at Flipnotics offers a typically low-key yet inviting overview of his career. With Scrappy Jud Newcomb on guitar, he sparkles on "Girl With the Dirty Hair," takes a haunting trip to southwest Louisiana with "Rice Birds," and joyfully channels Woody Guthrie's strum on "AFL CIO." Hard Times finds Carroll alternating vocals with Michael O'Connor, best known as the guitarist for Slaid Cleaves and Susan Gibson. A compendium of sketches of "Gulf Coast Losers" as O'Connor calls them, its mostly co-written material only intensifies Carroll's straightforward nature. Most will be immediately drawn to the sad but humorous "Billy Gibbons' Beard," as well as O'Connor doing his best Townes Van Zandt impression on "Sleepy Town," and Carroll's new Depression-era title track with a mischievous twist. O'Connor's raspy vocals and Gabe Rhodes' light production are ideal for these tunes of the down and out. Hard Times never sounded this good.