Trouble in Mind Two Years Strong

It has been two years since the release of “Trouble in Mind” on Lost Highway and Hayes Carll is still garnering recognition by both his peers and the Americana Music Association. He has been compared to Townes Van Zandt in the tradition of the best songwriters Texas has to offer.

I couldn’t believe his set was the first night, Wednesday at the earliest time slot of 8pm at the smallest venue of the Americana Music Festival, The Basement, which can only hold about 100 fully packed. I was tied up at work until 8PM and rushed over in 10 minutes flat to get in as soon as possible. I ran into a couple who travelled from Australia who were rushing like me over to The Basement. They had come for the Festival, but more specifically, to see Hayes Carll play. I was surprised they knew about him. They said,” you can find Hayes Carll CD’s in Australia but it’s not easy.”

Hayes had won AMA Song of the Year in 2008 with “She Left me for Jesus” one of the cleverest songs that at one point is irreverent but at the same time you can’t help laughing with lines like “She says he’s perfect, well how can I compete?” This was my first time to see him since finding “Trouble in Mind” eight months ago while rummaging through all the links Amazon had when I put in Texas songwriters.

Neon Glow Hayes at The Basement

The album “Trouble in Mind” has taken Hayes Carll about as far as any artist could.  He not only won “Emerging Artist” this year at The Americana Music Association Awards, but, Ray Wylie Hubbard was up for song of the year for a cover of another song off that album, “Drunken Poet’s Dream” which opened up “Trouble in Mind” written by Hayes and Ray.

Ray Wylie Hubbard at Mercy Lounge

 In fact, I left the show at The Basement and was at Mercy Lounge listening to Ray play it onstage 3 minutes after I arrived. If I had left any later, I would have missed it. What a Karma moment with Ray playing Hayes and his song with Ray’s son, Lucas, being featured on lead guitar. Maybe, Robert Plant would be the surprise guest the next night at the awards and overshadow what was going on, but Hayes’ had the Karma and Mojo.

The song didn’t win, but, it was up against Ryan Bingham’s “The Weary Kind” the theme song from “Crazy Heart”.  It is hard to argue with success and T Bone Burnett.  Ryan may have opened more doors for Americana and Country music, but, maybe not as big as “Urban Cowboy” did way back when.

The funny thing is “Crazy Heart” did open the door for the Texas charts. Maybe that is what T Bone Burnett wanted to do since true Country music can be found in Texas under the banner of “Americana Music” in these day and times. The banner of “Americana” is the revolution and Hayes Carll and fellow writer, Texas raised, Ryan Bingham are leading the way.

Hayes did a great set, I was squished in the secondary room with just a glance of the stage here and there. It was absolutely awful, but I could say I was there with the rest of the sardines. Hayes did a slow interpretation of “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart”. It was a great set that was with a full band that featured tour mate Bonnie Whitmore of Nashville on Bass. Hayes was one of the sardines as you can see from the sweat dripping off as he made his way out after the set.

I was standing between media reps from KPIG out of Santa Cruz, California (Santa Cruz was at the forefront of the hippie scene, surf music and Punk so only fitting to hear this, a good barometer), who said “Trouble in Mind” was the only album they have played every cut and a guy from Mother Earth News who couldn’t stop saying good things about Hayes. There were plenty of Aussies and a few Englishmen.

If I had only one set I could make it to, with the exception of Wanda Jackson, it was to see Hayes.  He has a great sense of self deprecating humor, non cliché lyrics and a unique voice that will carry him for years. He may be the big crossover between Americana, Folk and Country as time passes.

Brad, Hayes Carll, the Basement, Nashville

After the show, I was able to meet up with him briefly. I told him it would be good to see him on a package tour with Ryan Bingham. Hayes shared he had “talked to Ryan but they haven’t got together yet”. My feeling is that they were both unique in their own way but complimented each other’s style to build on each fan base.  

Corb Lund, Hayes Carll, Lucinda Williams and Hayes' Parents

The next time I caught up with him was after the Americana Awards where his Mom was hanging onto his award for him. It looks like Gibson Guitar had a hand in making the awards with the Gibson logo headstock coming out of the wooden base. Each award was hand painted and featured some artifacts of the artist.
It was cool being considered an emerging artist, yes; “Trouble in Mind” has legs and now can be considered a great album that stood the test of time now two years strong. I kind of joked about him getting the “Emerging Artist” award which he got since it has been eight years since his first album release. The thing is the award was not for “New” artist and after all, it is a great recognition from such a widespread community of artists that this album got a lot of airplay and will probably get more as the anticipation for the next release is getting strong.

Emerging Artist 2010

I would have liked to ask more questions, but, it was a big night and his parents were there to share the moment. I can always call management and schedule a follow up interview later. Congratulations, Hayes, it was a whirlwind weekend, but, hopefully will create some momentum this year. Please get on Lost Highway to update some photos and stuff on your website. After all, you deserve it. There is nothing like recognition from your peers. Good luck on the follow up.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN