On Tuesday, February 5, Hayes Carll stepped onto one of the most famous stages in the world, onto THE most famous stage in Country music.
Having stood on the empty stage looking at the empty seats pre-performance, and letting his mind scroll through the incredible list of legends that had graced this stage before, he braced himself for the walk onto the stage. He arrived armed with just his guitar and opened with his Grammy award nominated ‘Chances Are’ and followed these with two songs, ‘Jesus & Elvis’ and ‘American Dream’, from his new album ‘What It Is’.
The world-famous Grand Ole Oprey had just witnessed the debut of this hugely talented singer-songwriter from Texas and this week will see the release of his highly anticipated album.
It is an album born almost of a creative rebirth which coincided with his moving to Nashville with his fiancée, singer songwriter Allison Moorer, and discovering a pool of creation in studios and writing rooms. It was something that took Carll from starting to think of music as a job and returning him to that moment when a songwriter really feels connected to the music he is making.
‘What It Is’, the sixth album from Hayes Carll, is a place where he sings about the volatility of our time one track and about his love for his creative and new life partner the next. It swings from one style to another with ease being lighthearted for an instant and then deepening to talk of the spirit of change the next. It’s progressive, political protest wrapped up in Americana but by using the plethora of co writing talent around him it achieves not only this but also manages to be hugely accessible. Carll told Rolling Stone Country that the album is about letting go of excuses, finding the courage to live. About being in the moment. What I can tell you is that it’s all these things but it might also be about to be an ever present on your playlist .
‘What It Is’ is an album that demands a listen as it ranges from songs like recent single ‘None Ya’ which has been number 1 in the Americana chart for over 5 weeks to songs offering acerbic observations and pointed socio political comment . ‘Wild Pointy Fingers’ deals with the speed with which we can judge and condemn. ‘Fragile Men’ talks about the insecurity that causes resistance to change. ‘Times Like These’ reminds us not to let the background noise divide us from each other or from who we are .
But just as some of the songs feel politically and socially driven, others are about loss, eccentric love and coping with fear before drawing all of these disparate strands together with the loving, tender album closing track. ‘ I Will Stay’.
After his exciting debut at the home of Country music, and his happy personal place and move to Nashville, it feels like this is really an album where Hayes Carll has drawn on everything he has learned over his last decade or so of music making. Having been lauded by fans, critics and fellow artists as the singer songwriter loved by other singer songwriters, it’s time to make that leap to appeal to a wider audience and I really feel this is the album to make that step.
In a week where Kacey Musgraves has won a Grammy for her hit album ‘Golden Hour’ to add to her CMA album of the year award, it’s time to add this outstanding artist to your playlist. Hayes Carll is no stranger to Grammy nomination and might just be the next artist to appeal not just to Country and Americana but to a much wider audience.