Texas Twang returns to Neumeier’s Rib Room

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 96 views 

FORT SMITH — When you find local musicians and owners of other night clubs in the crowd, you know it’s going to be a good show.

Hayes Carll played to a sweltering crowd of enthusiastic fans at Nuemeier’s Rib Room Thursday evening (May 24)  Carll is on the road promoting his fourth album KMAG Yoyo (& Other American Stories) a follow-up to his 2008 record Trouble in Mind.

Carll strolled slowly up to the mic and started the night with a soulful rendition of “Worry B Gone,” an old Guy Clark tune. He followed it with the title track, “KMAG Yoyo,” picking up the pace and drawing in the crowd. This song traverses the geopolitical and ideological conundrums that modern warfare creates:  "Here I am standin' in the desert with a gun/Thought of going AWOL but I'm too afraid to run/So I got myself a new plan/Stealin' from the Taliban/Make a little money turning poppies into heroin/Sergeant didn't like it so they put me in a hole."

KMAG Yoyo (& Other American Stories) put Carll on the Americana Map reaching No. 1 on the Americana Music Association’s top 10 Albums of the year in 2011. This is no small feat as the top five slots were filled out respectively by Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Alison Krauss, and Emmylou Harris. Indeed, Carll is no light-weight.

He got the crowd going with “Stomp and Holler.” The upbeat rhythm of this song sits in contrast to the lyrics, which examine the economic struggles faced by many Americans: "Oh, rock and roll, ache and moan/Listen to the young girls scream/Every time I get a little bit lucky/I gotta wake up from a poor man’s dream."

Carll’s ode to life on the road, “Hard Out Here,” spells out the difficulty of traveling the road and got the crowd singing along: "I used to have a heart but the highway took it/the game was right but the deal was crooked/It gets hard out here/I know it don’t look it."

Carll is known for his edgy lyrics, and he prefaced “She Left me for Jesus” by saying, “The problem with irony is that not everybody gets it.” This was clearly a crowd favorite, with an unforgettable chorus: "She left me for Jesus and that just ain't fair/she says that he’s perfect how could I compare/she says I should find him and I’ll know peace at last/if I ever find Jesus I’m kickin’ his ass."

American Songwriter Magazine placed Carll’s tune “Another Like You” at the No. 1 slot of best 50 songs of 2011. Performed with Cary Ann Hearst for the record, the song delves into the psychological machinations of a relationship between a staunch liberal and adamant conservative. By the end of the song the tension between political ideologies turns into a hotel tryst, and everyone is left wondering about the power of opposites attracting.

Carll was supported by a well-rounded band with two talented guitarists who changed instruments — electric guitar, to pedal steel, from dobro to mandolin, to hollow-body electric — on nearly every song of the night.

They played one long solid set of 25 songs in just over an hour and a half.  The die-hard fans were not leaving until they heard “Bad Liver and A Broken Heart" — "Arkansas, my head hurts/I love to stick around and maybe make it worse/I got a girl out in Henrietta/Her love’s like tornado weather."

Carll, no stranger to Arkansas as he went to college in Conway, left the crowd smiling with warm memories of a good night of music.