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Album Review: “Trouble In Mind” by Hayes Carll

December 21, 2008

Trouble In Mind cover4 Stars


Less than a year ago I would have taken this project and labeled it as bland, boring and uninteresting. However as my respect for music has grown I have found that it’s artists like Texan Hayes Carll that make up some of the best the genre has to offer. After a rough start trying to work his way up in the world of Texas country music, Carll released his third album Trouble In Mind in 2008 which has become one of the year’s most cherished offerings.

Trouble In Mind takes full advantage of the art and the mastery that is Hayes Carll’s music. All but two songs in this fourteen track album are written or co-written by Hayes based off of his personal experiences in life from all different angles. Most of the songs surround people who are forced to come face to face with the many hardships of life and, in many cases, attempt to drown them out with the help of the bottle. However the bars and alcohol are not the complete basis of this album for if it were to actually be considered a concept album the main idea would be life in general, the good the bad and the ugly all wrapped up in a single project of fourteen well established songs.

To justify how versatile this album really is all one has to do is compare Carll’s two singles from the project. His first song “She Left Me For Jesus” take religion and puts a rather entertaining and effective comical twist on it from the point of view of a man who’s been dumped for his sinful lifestyle. On the other hand there is the romantic “It’s A Shame” which focuses around a man’s fantasy of being together with a woman he sees as the perfect girl for him. As different as they are however both focus on the concept of a tortured soul begging for life to go his way. However this album is far from all romance and comedy, most of it is very serious stuff.

A good portion of this album surrounds the tragic reality of life, mostly through the persona of bar patrons. For example, “Bad Liver And A Broken Heart” is written about a man who, despite his attempts to have a good time, always leaves a bar worse off than when he entered, destroying both his body and his mind with liqueur. Then you have more delicate matters approached through the ballad “Don’t Let Me Fall” as a man begs that someone help hold him up literally and figuratively when he comes face to face with his demons during a drinking session. However, that’s not to say Carll is attempting to portray the bar as a place of depression and self-destruction. Songs like “Wild As A Turkey” and “I Got A Gig” are the contrary, in fact the later seems to be his own personal version of “Piano Man” as he explores the typical group of patrons who attend his small shows.

The rest of the album focuses on a combination of common issues of the world and the enjoyment of life and love. You could take “Faulkner Street” which preaches about a carefree community or you could go with “Beaumont” where a man explains how he refuses to wait for a girl to make up her mind about loving him or not. Some of the more romantic songs contain some of Carll’s best writing like the opening track “Drunken Poet’s Dream” and the closing ballad “Willing To Love Again”. However probably the most respectable song on this entire project is not one of Hayes’ own. “I Don’t Want To Grow Up” sounds like it could be a fun and energetic song by its name, but it turns out to be a power ballad sung through the eyes of a young boy who witnesses the many problems of the world, from his parent’s excessive drinking to the issues on the news, as a child and is afraid to have to face them as he gets older. Impressively enough Carll manages to put himself into the character of this young boy almost perfectly and sing it as if this song was the basis of his whole writing style to begin with.

It would not be a stretch to say this album is autobiographical. In fact most of these songs are probably written or chosen based off of Hayes’ personal experiences and life choices. No matter where these songs came from each one contains a sense of honesty and personal relevance that makes the whole project all the more believable. Save for a few more confusing tracks (“A Lover Like You” and “Knockin’ Over Whisky Bottles”) that take a few listens and a little patience to figure out, this album is worth every second. With some of the most creative writing styles and some of the most delicate subjects taken into consideration, Carll’s third album is a big winner.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. phoenixrisingsf permalink
    December 21, 2008 5:50 am


    Great Writing! Would you consider doing a review for a New Age Album? Here is some info about it. You can also hear the title track ‘Ascension’ at our myspace

    If you are interested I can email you the tracks.

    Thanks- Have a Great Holiday!

    Monica Willliams
    Phoenix Rising


    We are living in a time of stress and struggle. There is still hunger, hatred, and sickness in a world that is also filled with such beauty, generosity, and harmony. ASCAP award-winning composer Wendy Loomis and Eastman School of Music alumna Monica Williams decided to create a CD that had the power to help people relax, de-stress, and energize with positive vibrations of gratitude for this life. While Wendy was in the middle of a yoga class, she had a vision of the CD being organized around the 7 chakras. For those of you unfamiliar, the 7 chakras are energy centers that run up the human body from the base of the spine, to the sexual center, the stomach, the heart, the throat, the 3rd eye between the eyebrows, and the crown of the head. Many people have developed systems that associate colors and tones with each chakra. Monica and Wendy decided not to be quite so literal in their interpretation, but rather incorporate the idea of energy rising from our most earthly, primal instincts up toward our higher, nobler, spiritual realm – the eternal quest to ascend toward the Higher Power. And ASCENSION was born.

    7 is a lucky and inspiring number that is threaded through ASCENSION: there are 7 tones in a scale, the compositions are in 7 different key signatures, the music is played on 7 primary instruments, Monica was born in ’77, and this is the 7th CD of Wendy’s music.

    With the exception of ‘Seed’ and ‘Nourishment’ which were improvisations, the themes for this CD were composed by Wendy Loomis. Monica and Wendy arranged the flute and piano sounds in a weave with instruments from around the world played by a group of very talented women: Jennifer Lim on guzheng (China); Debra Podjed on tabla (India) and goat hooves (Bolivia); Jessica Styler on hang drum (Switzerland); Suellen Primost on cello (Italy); Irina Mikhailova on voice (born in Russia); and Karen Segal on guitar (Spain/the Middle East).

    Contact me at– if you are interested.

  2. December 22, 2008 5:56 pm

    Yay, Hayes Carll!

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