Music Reviews — 17 May 2014
Hayes Carll Croons at Brooklyn’s Bell House

Hayes Carll

A Concert Review
The Bell House, Gowanus, Brooklyn
May 16, 2014

Concert Review: Hayes Carll at The Bell House


What began as a relatively quiet night with three musicians performing to a crowded room of Brooklyners turned into a foot-stompin’ party by show’s end on Friday night. In spite of a rainy night outside, concertgoers flocked out to versatile venue The Bell House in Gowanus for Texan singer-songwriter Hayes Carll. Joined on stage by two supporting players, the trio delivered a ninety minute set of wide ranging material which served to highlight Hayes’ ability to write lyrics that are particularly poetic and perform them in a way that is relatable to the everyman.

The show kicked off promptly at 10pm, following an entertaining forty minutes from opener Caroline Rose and though the crowd seemed to file in particularly slowly, Carll emerged from backstage to find a room with every seat filled and a standing room only crowd surrounding them. The trio then began with the slow and sweet “Beaumont,” a fitting opener that foreshadowed Carll’s eclectic style of country music which seems to alternate between ballad and more traditional faster paces. Though it was initially slated as a solo performance, the addition of the singer’s backing musicians worked perfectly in this setting, especially during faster tracks like “Wild as a Turkey” and “KMAG YOYO” where the kickbox drum and slide guitar would punctuate the song by their mere addition.

Carll meanwhile would lead the performance throughout with his acoustic guitar which would at times be accompanied by some harmonica playing, another nice touch during a cover of Ray Wiley Hubbard’s “Drunken Poet’s Dream.” But his strong focus on songwriting made the strongest impression as the show wore on. Though Carll seemed noticeably choked up following the performance of “The Magic Kid,” written about his son Elijah- an aspiring magician, the strangely compelling “My Baby Took My Baby Away” was a forlorn love letter written to a wife who pays more attention to the couple’s baby than to her husband. But the eccentric premise did nothing to prevent its catchy appeal as we hung on each of Carll’s words as a somehow sympathetic figure here.

Following the outlaw country song “Bible on the Dash” written with Canadian country singer Corb Lund, Carll welcomed Caroline Rose back out to the stage for a rendition of “Another Like You,” perhaps Carll’s most well known song. Rose held her own, despite being, as she put it ‘drunk’ and the sassy duet was well received by the audience, who by this time were itching to stand up and dance.

Capping out the 17 song set with the upbeat “It’s a Shame,” Carll briefly would leave the stage to a standing ovation. As the crowd subsided some, the trio returned for the country throwback “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart”and the hand clapping “Stomp and Holler” which finally allowed fans to dance in place, in the aisles and wherever they were able to find some room. Although Hayes Carll might not have country music’s finest singing voice, his proficiency for writing profoundly captivating lyrics coupled with his command of the stage exudes the feeling like you’re watching an emerging superstar whose somehow still a grounded everyman. Part of what makes his songs work so well are the raw, warts-and-all style of unapologetic music that he plays- where it’s all part of the show, whether intended or not. And for better or for worse, that seemed to work out just fine for his audience, who lauded him with lasting applause long after he’d left the Brooklyn stage.

- Dave Gendelson

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(1) Reader Comment

  1. he used to have a really nice singing voice before he tore it up…