There comes a time of reckoning in nearly every artist’s life, a reckoning of youthful wants and maturing needs. Some go kicking and screaming into their next phase, while others go quietly, thoughtfully. Singer/songwriter Hayes Carll chose the latter route on his new Lovers and Leavers LP, a collection of 10 tender tunes that documents a tumultuous time in his life, including the dissolution of his marriage and the discovery of new love.
In the past, Carll has always folded his more vulnerable revelations in with his more raucous visions of life. But Hayes Carll, the drunken poet, has always been there — sidled right up alongside Hayes Carll, the stomp-and-holler cowboy. It’s just that, this time around, the poet’s not drunk and the cowboy’s not hollering.
And, while he’s still telling tales, a lot more of them are his own. In songs like “Drive,” “Good While It Lasted,” and “Love Don’t Let Me Down,” Carll lays it all on the line and producer Joe Henry gives him next to nothing, sonically speaking, to hide behind. The result is a captivating cycle of songs that feels rather much like a Shawn Colvin album. (“The Love That We Need,” with its Hornsby-esque piano runs, is a particularly poignant foray into more adult alternative-feeling terrain. And it’s lovely.)
Fans of Carll classics like “Beaumont” and “Chances Are” will easily embrace this set, while lovers of “KMAG YOYO” and “Hey Baby Where You Been” might have to be convinced. But they should give it a chance, nonetheless.