Carll and Isbell heat up the honky tonk at Brighton Music Hall

from Enterprise News on

There was a veritable potpourri of Americana music at the Brighton Music Hall Saturday night, from the stripped down harmonizing of the duo Shovels and Rope, to the full-bore rockin’ alt-country of Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit, to the skewed honky tonk of Texan Hayes Carll.
 There was even a Boston-to-Austin marriage announcement. This was the last show on the current tour for Carll and his band, The Poor Choices, and he announced between songs that his band’s multi-instrumentalist Scott Davis will be tying the knot with Scituate native Ellen Morrissey on April 30.
 When we caught up with Davis after the show he noted that his fiancee, Scituate High class of 1997, is an Emerson College graduate he met when they both worked at an independent book store in New Mexico. Now based in the Texas music capital of Austin, the couple planned their wedding around the band’s touring. Scituate’s Ward Hayden, leader of the local country-rock band Girls Guns and Glory, was in Saturday’s audience, and introduced himself to Davis, where they soon were discussing mutual friends. Small world indeed.
 While many music fans might have surmised that the presence of Isbell on this doublebill led to its being a quick sellout, the reality seemed a bit different. Many fans were seemingly ignoring the blazing hour-long set by the former Drive By Trucker, chatting loudly and obviously just killing time before Carll’s arrival. A funny thing has happened to the 34-year old Texas troubador since his 2008 album “Trouble in Mind,” with its unforgettably hilarious song “She Left Me For Jesus.” Carll has graduated from cult-favorite to certified big deal, with his new album “KMAG YOYO,” winning scores of new fans as well as a spotlight gig on The Tonight Show.
The best thing that ascension means to music fans is that now Carll can tour with a full band, and last night his quintet was a rockin’, twangin’ force of nature. Carll is a fine example of the lengthy tradition of Texas songwriters, with the incisive wit of Robert Earl Keen, the intelligence and warmth of Guy Clark, the skewed country vision of a Ray Wylie Hubbard, and the good-timey vibe of Jerry Jeff Walker. Most of Saturday’s two-hour set focused on rocking material such as that found on the new album. Carll and his band did at least ten of the new CD’s dozen tunes.
Carll, in jeans and patterned shirt, with his perennially unkempt mop of hair, opened with “Chances Are,” one of the more traditional country tear-in-your-beer ballads from his new album. “Hard Out Here” amped up the tempo to a brisk two-step, as the singer ran through a humorous series of touring exploits. Davis switched from guitar to mandolin to provide some delicious melody lines to “It’s a Shame,” from Carll’s 2008 CD. But then the woozy “A Drunken Poet’s Dream,” (co-written with Hubbard, by the way) cranked the energy level up to honky tonk-Saturday night levels.
The title cut from the new CD, “KMAG YOYO,” comes from a military acronym, the second half of which is “you’re on your own.” The tune itself is a surreal fever dream from an Afghanistan War vet, and delivered in staccato form over a rapid rock tempo, so that it almost feels like rap music-gone-country. There are some terrific lines in this tune, but just as on the album cut, some of them went by so fast you could miss them without a lyric sheet. But judging from the loud audience response, Carll’s fans have taken the trouble to read the lyric sheet, or love the song regardless.
Reprising her role on the album, Cary Ann Hearst from the opening act Shovels and Rope, came onstage to sing “Another Like You” with Carll. The singer explained that he envisioned the song as a dialogue between “a woman who only watches Fox News, and a guy who watches MSNBC,” and he hoped it portrayed how silly some of our current divisiveness is. The duet was a definite high point, and Hearst has the kind of sassy persona that made her a superb foil for the lanky Carll.
Carll reached back for some older songs, like the understated prairie despair of “Beaumont,” enhanced by pedal steel guitar, and a tender, solo take onthe 2005 plaintive ballad, “Long Way Home..” There was even a brand new song, “One Bed, Two Girls, and Three Bottles of Wine,” which was as rambunctious a picaresque tale as its title implies.
Carll’s gift for witty observation is the key to “The Letter,” a comical ballad about life on the road, but following it up with the honky tonk rock of “Grand Parade” made it a bit obvious the two songs have similar themes. Carll took up banjo for his 2008 romp “I Got a Gig,” kind of a tongue-in-cheek celebration of working for peanuts as a solo act. “The Lovin’ Cup” from the new album is a rather downbeat, lost-love song, but Carll and the band delivered it as a rompin’, stompin’ two-step, kind of contrasting the mood of the words.
Naturally, the crowd went bonkers for “She Left Me For Jesus,” wherein Carll details losing a girl to her religion, with its funny lines like “she says He’s perfect, how can I compete?” The regular set ended with the quintessential honky tonk tune from the new CD, “Stomp and Holler, ” a fiery romp fired more by Z.Z.Top’s influence than any of those Lone Star poets.
Looking at photos of Jason Isbell, where he looks bookish and even, with his glasses on, downright geeky, you might wonder about his appeal fronting a band. But Saturday’s set showed that if anything else, the talented songsmith is also a born frontman, confident and riveting with a voice of startling power and range. Isbell also seemed to be taking most of the guitar leads in his quartet, and thoroughly enjoying his time onstage.
An early set highlight for Isbell and his group was “Never Gonna Change,” a twangy rocker of his, which soon morphed into an incendiary cover of Jimi Hendrix’ “Stone Free,” before returning to the original tune for a slightly softer landing. Isbell nodded to his stint in the Drive By Truckers with a visceral turn through “Goddam Lonely Love.” Accordion and standup bass gave “Codeine,” from Isbell’s newest album “Here We Rest,” a real down-home feel, and gave him plenty of room to make the lyrics about wasted lives poignant.
A really charming surprise was having 400 Unit drummer Chad Gamble sing a boisterous cover of “Hey Pocky-way,” as Isbell and his band tackled The Meters’ old New Orleans tune with elan–and the proper rhythmic accents. Isbell’s affecting view of a returning war vet, “Tour of Duty,” came across as a brisk two-step, underlining the lyrics’

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Eryaman Odtülüler Dershanesi