Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
ife's been pretty darn good for Hayes Carll. He released a new disc, the sturdy, "What It Is," and he remarried - to fellow singer Allison Moorer.
Carll has enjoyed a two-decade long career as a plainspoken singer, some of it distinctly country, some of it more following in the footsteps of the great Texas singer/songwriters, like Ray Wylie Hubbard, and some of it giving a nod to Dylan.
Playing solo acoustic with a bit of harp occasionally thrown in, Carll demonstrated his depth and breadth of musicianship and mixing his humor and serious sides together on the ironic "She Left Me for Jesus," which he said he doesn't play too much any more because people misunderstood the song.
Carll may be a jokester, telling a bunch of humorous stories - some of them a bit long, but still funny. Yet, he also had a serious side. "Times Like These" takes dead aim at President Trump: "In times like these do I really need a billionaire/Just takin' all my time tryin' to tell me I was treated unfair?"
In "Jesus and Elvis," Carll sang about the owner of a Texas bar who kept things just as they were in 1968 when her son went off to the Viet Nam War to return home in a pine box. For all of his ease with humor, Carll's diversity was on full display.
And he would mix the serious and the humorous on "The Magic Kid," a song about his magic loving son, Eli. Carll may have joked about his abilities in introducing the song, but he made it clearly in the song itself that he had utmost respect and love.
One of the highlights was Moorer coming out to sing a few songs with her husband, including a lovely cover of Lefty Frizzell's "That's the Way Love Goes." It would have been easy for Moorer to vocally devour Carll, but their voice blended beautifully.
Carll wasn't sure life would be very good with Moorer after the concert. During her stint, she was off by a day, thinking it was Wednesday. Later on, Carll joked, with Moorer beside him, about it being Friday and got the distinct sense he might be hearing about it later.
Moorer also opened the night. Of course, she is a headliner in her own right, but a little bit of Moorer is a whole lot better than nothing at all. Moorer, herself, had quite a 2019. Besides marriage, of course, she also put out the difficult memoir, "Blood" and a companion album about the murder/suicide of her parents when she was only 14.
A clear highlight of her set was the haunting, pin drop quiet reading of "Nightlight." Moorer described "Nightlight" as a dedication to her sister, fellow singer Shelby Lynne, who helped her through most difficult times.
Despite the tragedy, Moorer clearly has tried to deal with it. She wrote "Heal," with Mary Gauthier, with lyrics most poignant: "Help me lay my weapons/ own
Help me give the love I feel/Help me hold myself with kindness/And help me heal." Moorer spoke in near mystical terms of how the song evolved.
Moorer simply has gorgeous pipes and remains always a pleasure to listen to whether new or the two-decades old, Oscar-nominated "A Soft Place to Fall."
Both in their mid-40s, Moorer and Carll only seem to get better and better with age. Life has been good, indeed.