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Review: Hayes Carll brings Texas-sized swing, swagger to Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa




Hayes Carll couldn’t have come from anywhere but Texas. He’s a singer-songwriter in the tradition of Jerry Jeff Walker and Robert Earl Keen, wise guys experienced in talking themselves out of barroom beatings after some roughneck realizes they’re laughing at him, not with him. Or hitting on his girlfriend.

Certainly, there are listeners who might miss the humor in Hayes’ She Left Me for Jesus, in which a jilted boyfriend threatens to whup up on the Savior. Same for KMAG YOYO, about the hallucinations of a wounded teenage soldier. What could have been a standard anti-war tune instead becomes a wicked comedy involving the CIA, LSD and space travel.

Carll had little to fear Tuesday night at Skipper’s Smokehouse. Presented by listener-supported radio station WMNF, 88.5 FM, the show was packed with Carll partisans braving the humidity and midweek work schedules to hear tales of sex, drunkenness, heartache and all-around aberrant behavior.

Carll combined all three for a comic apex, One Bed, Two Girls and Three Bottles of Wine, a new song co-written with Bobby Bare Jr., a song about a fantasy not quite living up to expectations.

Carll’s got storytelling down, but he’s got a knack for musical nuances as well, moving effortlessly from relaxed Western swing on Good Friends to four-on-the-floor rock ‘n’ roll for Little Rock and a shuffle for Another Like You.

Carll’s band was a delight in its own right, particularly guitarists Scott Davis and Travis Linville. Davis added lap steel and accordion, while Linville also played pedal steel, dobro and mandolin. When the two got some space to traded solos on Good Friends, it was a slice of six-string heaven.

Carll had a droll (and possibly hungover) stage presence, rambling through stories of playing shimper bars on the Texas coast and writing songs about farm animals with Ray Wylie Hubbard.

Carll made it all look deceptively easy, even as he invoked the hardest working man in show business – “I’m like James Brown, only white and taller,” he sang on Stomp and Holler. But he came closer to summing himself up on Hard Out Here – “You ain’t a poet, just a drunk with a pen.” Like there’s a difference?

Opening act Scott Miller was sharp but loose, fielding requests and continually assuring the mostly adoring crowd that his set was almost over. He opened with the Statler Brothers’ I’ll Go to My Grave Loving You before focusing on stellar originals such as 8 Miles a Gallon, Freedom Is a Stranger and the bitter, funny, Lo Siento, Spanishburg, WV.

-- Curtis Ross, tbt*

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 20, 2011 11:03am]


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