Hayes Carll

What It Is (Dualtone)

Texas Platters

Hayes Carll pulled a magic trick with 2016's Lovers and Leavers, an unexpected turn of sincere meditations on fatherhood and divorce. That album broke from the clever-cloaked, smirking anthems the local songwriter had ridden to national notoriety, proving he could pull beyond sly puns and parodies. It was personal, real. Sixth LP What It Is slides back to more comfortably coy terrain for Carll, kicking off with the winking "None'ya" and honky-tonk boogie of "Times Like These." The Texan swings his sarcasm like a scythe, but more than a touch of his new sincerity still seeps out from the edges of funkier, uptempo arrangements and sharp hooks barbed into his singable melodies. Songs such as "Be There" and "I Will Stay" split the difference, laced with impeccably smart one-liners that still ring with an emotional reality, even as "Things You Don't Wanna Know" and "If I May Be So Bold" deliver classic Carll romps, and "Wild Pointy Finger" somewhat bewilders. The velvet portrait dichotomy of "Jesus and Elvis" revels in Carll's keen eye for cultural ironies, set against the social critiques of "American Dream" and brooding "Fragile Men." Hayes Carll may forever swing between his impulses, but he's come to fully embrace What It Is.

***.5

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  

READ MORE
More Hayes Carll
The Magic Kid
The Magic Kid
Hayes Carll reappears without the riddles

Doug Freeman, April 8, 2016

Hayes Carll Record Review
Hayes Carll Record Review
Lovers and Leavers (Record Review)

Raoul Hernandez, April 8, 2016

More Music Reviews
Texas Platters
Daniel Johnston
Chicago 2017 (Record Review)

Raoul Hernandez, Feb. 21, 2020

Texas Platters
Kinky Friedman
Resurrection (Record Review)

Rick Weaver, Jan. 3, 2020

More by Doug Freeman
New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
What we’re listening to

March 5, 2021

New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
What we’re listening to

Feb. 26, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Hayes Carll

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
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