You Get It All
Hayes Carll has built his career mostly on singer-songwriter roots-rock records but he claims that You Get It All is a country singer-songwriter record. He turns to his wife, Allison Moorer, and her favorite producer, guitar great Kenny Greenberg as co-producers of this, his eighth album. The many aspects of Carll’s appeal – clever and witty wordplay, story songs, socially conscious songs, and emotions that range from lighthearted to heavy are all here in one of the strongest albums of his career.
Three songs in, we get one of the best songs Carll has ever recorded, the stunning “Help Me Remember,” revealing a tender, empathetic side of him we’ve rarely heard. He addresses the subject of Alzheimer’s dementia in the tune co-written with Josh Morningstar, written from the perspective of someone coping with the illness. Carll shares his own encounter with the disease this way, “I was 14 years old and sitting in the passenger seat of my grandfather’s truck in Waco, TX, the town he had lived in for most of his life. He turned to me at a stoplight and asked me where we were. He looked scared. I know I was. I’ve thought a lot since then about what it must feel like to lose the thread of your own story. This song is for the people who’ve experienced what my grandfather did, those that are experiencing it currently, and for those who serve as their witnesses and caregivers.”
He addresses the environmental cause in his typical witty fashion in the opening “Nice Things,” in a co-write with the Brothers Osborne. God comes down to check out the Earth and takes a less than impressed view, Carll’s way of telling us in song, that we can do a lot better. The title track follows, with Carll urging us not to hide anything in a relationship but to bring all aspects, positive and negative, of oneself. The fiddle-driven, hoedown-lie “Any Other Way,” co-written with Aaron Raitiere, is a light-hearted treatise on living life one’s own way. “Different Boats” co-written with Moorer and Adam Landry, speaks to tolerance – “You row your boat/I’ll row mine/We’ll both get there in our own sweet time.”
Brandy Clark is the co-writer and duet vocalist on “In The Mean Time,” is a lovely honky-tonk waltz that in spirt conjures George and Tammy, depicting the damage couples can inflict on each other when they at their worst – “the holler and scream time.” Carll again teams with Raitiere on the delusional stomper “She’ll Come Back to Me,” imbued with Fats Kaplin’s fiddle and filled with lines such as “And Elvis is alive” and “And Dolly just can’t sing.” The rocking “To Keep from Being Found,” written with Pat McLaughlin, is a hilarious rave-up where the protagonist escapes to a motel room with a TV on wheels with the payoff line “I’ll pay the cost of being lost just to keep from being found.”
In addition to Greenberg, who plays all kinds of guitars, the album boasts some of Nashville’s best musicians including Chris Donegan (guitars), Glenn Work (bass), Fred Eltringham (drums), Mike Rojas (keys), Fats Kaplin (fiddle, pedal steel), Jared Reynolds (bass), Evan Hutchings (drums), David Dorn (keys), with Moorer, Raitiere, and Reynolds on background vocals.
“Leave It All Behind,” written with Moorer and Jeff Trott, speaks to resilience while “The Way I Love You,” penned with Waylon Payne, addresses breakup wherein even though the relationship is broken, the obsession lingers. The repetitive “Goddam the way I love you” reminds of Jason’s Isbell’s “Goddamn Lonely Love” or Dylan’s “Dirge” from Planet Waves with its devastating opening line “I hate myself for lovin’ you and the weakness that it showed.” It’s the same downcast sentiment. While we can easily relate to the characters in these songs, the downcast closer “If It Was Up to Me,” collaborating with Moorer and Sean McConnell, is one the best examples of how Carll merges humor with sadness to create empathy. Carefree lines such as “If it was up to me/My back account would have more zeroes” blend with the notion that one is only in control of so much when juxtaposed with “If It was up to me/My mistakes would not outlive me/And everyone could just forgive me.” Note that he does have a line in here “If it was up to me/The Stros would win the season.” That could become reality soon as the team is in the World Series at this writing.
Let’s face it. We all have a natural affinity for an artist that doesn’t take himself too seriously. Carll, who does a wonderful job balancing the real with the whimsical, reminds us that none of us are perfect, that we need to row our own boat. Just the same, it’s okay to point fun at life, and to laugh. Carll never preaches, he’s never bitter or mean and instead seems to take it all in stride. He’s your confidante, someone who can make you feel comfortable. Therein lies his special appeal.
- Jim Hynes