Written by Daniel Barker
Dec 28, 2010
When I covered Hayes Carll at The Mucky Duck back on July 24th, 2010 my main theme was one of relief. Relief from the concern that one of HMR’s favorites had a 2 year void without a new album and nothing really even being discussed about one. Relief from rumors running amuck of set list monotony and burned-out vocal degradation past the point of recovery. HC put my mind at ease that night and reinforced it at the Zeigenbock Festival in October by filling a 45 minute slot with even more new material. Then came the announcement that the new album “KMAG YOYO” was ready and being released 2-15-11. So I was just ready to just kick back and enjoy this annual Houston gig between Christmas and New Years that Carll has been doing for several years now at The Warehouse Studio Live.

ImageThis show started out on wobbly legs though as the opening line ups and date changed several times. I have to say that I was rather pleased when the unknowingly final opener lineup was announced consisting of Travis Linville and Bobby Bare, Jr on Dec. 28th. I have always wanted to catch Bobby Bare, Jr and never have caught up with him so that was sweet. Even sweeter was the reemergence of Travis Linville – my favorite of all Hayes’ guitar players over the years. Call it a hunch but I had a feeling that he would make his way onto stage with Hayes before the night’s end.

Travis Linville opened up solo playing his own music. Nice to see good ‘ole boy Hayes support his friend and former band mate by giving him a few opening gigs. TL is a straight forward singer and his songs are solid but his guitar work is phenomenal. After a few songs playing guitar the old fashion way he grabbed his Dobro and played it stand up slide bluegrass style ala Dan Tyminski from Union Station. All that and he threw in some harmonica work at the same time just for good measure. He ended his set saying, “I cannot come to Houston without playing a Lightnin’ Hopkins’ song” and slide right into the recently honored 3rd Ward resident’s “Katie Mae”. Honestly, it was hard to get a good sense of what this guy has going on solo with the loud crowd making their way into The Warehouse but it was great just to see TL again.

Next up was the unique style of Nashville’s Bobby Bare, Jr, who traditionally kicked his shoes off shortly after getting on stage and grabbed his beat to hell Gibson acoustic. BBJ is touring behind the August 31st, 2010 release of “A Storm-A Tree-My Mother’s Head” released on Immortal Records. He was by himself tonight and braved the ever increasing Hayesheads getting louder and louder in anticipation of the main act. He played an extremely short set, maybe 35 minutes, but it was powerful. He played my favorite “I’ll Be Around” to open. His voice is an acquired taste but “it is perfect for the music that he writes” to quote my partner this night, HMR alumni Samuel Barker. A big fan, only paled in comparison to my friend from Maryland Tony “Crunch” Wolf. Crunch told me he is even better with a full band and after this night picking up a copy of the new disc, which he graciously autographed, I won’t miss that show when it comes to Houston again.

ImagePlaying mostly from the new CD, “Rock ‘n Roll Halloween” and “Sad Smile” were good but the highlight of his set this night for me was “Chattanooga”. A song about the last night with his hippie girlfriend before going to court ordered rehab. He has great stage presence and has classic introductions to each of his songs that help give a little insight into each one. On the aforementioned number he said “I have not seen her since and I have no idea where she is tonight”. The chorus of the song ask – “Can you wait 4 weeks for me?” I guess not right. I can so relate.

Hayes took the stage with as solid of a band behind him that has ever had to stare at his ass all night consisting of stalwarts Scott Davis on guitars, lap steel and Kenny Smith hitting the skins; The beautiful Bonnie Whitmore on bass, harmony and duet vocals and you damn right!!! – Travis Linville on guitars and standup up flat slide Dobro all night…The room had completely filled up as Hayes kicked things off with Scott Nolan’s “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart” in its truest form but then turned it up immediately with a song off the new disc, “It’s Hard Out Here”…great Hayes song and I am sure one of the best off the new album.

Hayes looked happy and spoke of how this gig is one his favorites and always one of the rowdiest each year. He spoke of how he dreams of finally making it over into The Warehouse Main Room each year. He spoke of past years, the first one was the infamous Ego Brother’s Toga Party at The Continental Club. Once moved to The Warehouse there was one year a biker threw his colors on stage demanding HC put in on for “the fallen” and another year two girls were practically having sex on the stage with each other. A proposition he was not “totally in disagreement with.” This night would not disappoint – Trust me.

He kept things upbeat with “It’s a Shame” and a rarely played rocker that he has added to his set list I hope – “Rivertown”. The song that always hits home at this annual show is “Beaumont”. “It was cold as hell for Houston. It was almost New Year’s Eve”. Poet? No doubt. HC songs are almost always full of wise wit and double entendre and generally have a lot to offer once you get under the surface. Just like Carll I suppose.

Having cut down the between song banter in the heart of this set we were being treated to smoking hot extended jams. “I Got a Gig” featured Hayes on banjo leaving room for the two extra electric guitars to explore. A song written for his fellow Toga mate, John Evans just flat out killed, “Stomp and Hollar”. Scott and Travis tore it up…”Faulkner Street” kept the crowd in frenzy. “Naked Checkers” kept things seasonal.

ImageIn my review from The Duck show last summer, I mentioned my love affair with Bonnie Whitmore and how I hoped he could keep her. Well, it looks like he has and it is so awesome. She is so sassy with Hayes on the political duet “Another Like You”. Just like with Mando Saenz she is always there to catch her man with sweet harmony. Hayes Carll and The Bad Choices played the new title track “KMAG YOYO” and then ended the set with “Down The Road Tonight”. Trying to leave the stage Hayes was being distracted by a drunk Hayeshead telling him that if he would play “Richey Lee” he would set his cowboy hat on fire and throw it on the stage. Hayes classic response was, “I’ll play the song man. You don’t have to do all that.”

Hayes came out solo for the first of three encores starting out with “Live Free or Die” and then “Long Way Home” where the band piecemealed out to hit the second verse full band before going into Tom Waits; “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” and “Highway 87”. Coming out for the second encore Hayes thanked everyone again before going into “Girl Downtown”.

The third encore was a adrenaline fueled “Wish I Hadn’t Stayed So Long” and could not have been more fitting when a brawl broke out in the back with about 6-8 guys just wailing haymakers until security broke it up just lighting HC up. He was smiling so hard he could barely play harmonica. When the song’s last note was played HC took even more time to thank everyone so much for such a great night.

I was troubled not to hear Hayes mention anything about The Stingaree Festival that he had held down at his old stomping ground and my hometown, Crystal Beach, Texas yearly usually around April. 2010 was skipped due to lack of infrastructure after he teamed up with the local Texas Crab Festival in 2009. I sure hope that pure nugget of folk gold does not go debunked. When you list the acts that have appeared since the 1st one in 2006 it is literally a Who’s Who of the Modern Americana Movement.

This was one hell of a night of original music from three different approaches. My brother had never seen Hayes and was not a fan. As we left, I could tell that he finally was getting what I had been telling him for so long – You gotta see Hayes Carll live on a good night to understand what all the fuss is about. Well now he has. I will see you out supporting live music.