Modern journalism is rife with incorrect uses of the word ironic (mostly I blame Alanis Morissette). I guess it’s become a pet peeve of mine. Which is why the first thing to grab my attention on Trouble In Mind was that the only songre-recorded from his previous albums was “It’s A Shame”, a song that kicks off with the line “The time has come/There is no second chance”. Leave it to Hayes to use his major label debut to hand-deliver some fine irony.
It’s been a little over three years since we last had new music from Hayes. His signing with Lost Highway Records was announced about a year and a half ago, which seems a long time to wait between signing and release. But now that the disc is done, Hayes doesn’t waste any additional time in getting straight to business, kicking off with a song he co-wrote with Ray Wylie Hubbard, “Drunken Poet’s Dream.” It’s a rollicking track destined to become Hayes’s signature tune and a great way to launch into the album.
The cover of the album echoes back to the classic covers of the late 60’s and early 70’s. It’s done well, but I’ve seen it before. What really took me back to that era was the rhythm guitar tone on the song “Bad Liver And A Broken Heart” (delivered with gusto by Dan Baird, formerly of the Georgia Satellites). The second the song kicked into gear I was instantly transported back in time and such was the authenticity that I swear for a split second I saw a Farrah Fawcett poster on my wall.
While tracks like “Drunken Poet’s Dream”, “I Got A Gig”, and “Wild As Turkey” are the pro-typicaltunes, it’s the softer side of Hayes that really shines on Trouble In Mind, especially on album standouts “Beaumont” and “Willing To Love Again”, the latter of which was written and recorded with Americana MVP Darrell Scott (despite that impressive pairing, “Beaumont” is still probably my favorite track on the record).
With Lost Highway Records behind this release I can see Hayes Carll’s music finding a much larger audience than he has back home in Texas, but the pec-implanted set in Nashville need not fear Hayes supplanting them for a CMA Entertainer of the Year nomination just yet. Overall, this is Hayes’s best album to date, but I can’t help but feel that his best work is still ahead of him. His songwriting continues to sharpen (along with his wit) with each record and you can hear a world of difference in his confidence as an artist between this CD and his debut disc, Flowers & Liquor. This is an artist that is just beginning to bloom and the end result should prove to be spectacular.
Anyone who has seen Hayes perform live knows that there’s more to theshow than the songs. I like to think of Hayes as a modern Tommy Smothers with a Texas twang. Hayes closes out Trouble in Mind with that vibe on “She Left Me For Jesus”. Despite the fact that it’s clearly tongue-in-cheek, it’s guaranteed to offend many fundamentalists, and maybe even a handful of real people too. It’s their loss as the track is a lot of fun and the mental image of a redneck Hayes looking to pick a fight with Jesus over a girl is priceless. Honoring Hayes’s choice, we leave you with that.