Friday, 29 April 2016

Hayes Carll - The Glee Club, Nottingham. Thursday 28th April 2016

There seems to be two constants at a Hayes Carll gig: ‘Beaumont’ is the opening song and nobody leaves the venue disappointed. Maybe the sample of witnessing four shows over eight years is a touch small, but who cares now that Hayes has his compass set in the direction of the UK once again. Having dipped his toe into our cooler climate last year after a lengthy break, the promised quick return has materialised with a significant step up in presentation and impact. The major upgrade from last year was the introduction of pedal steel, and the dual skills of Geoff Queen injected unbelievable vibrancy into the amazing depth of Hayes’ songs. The new album may be shedding an introspective and mellow light on his current recording status, but for an hour and half tonight on show was the full breadth of what makes Hayes Carll such an exceptional artist on the contemporary Americana circuit.

The trio on stage for this year’s run of dates was heralded as the Gulf Coast Orchestra with percussionist Mike Meadows joining Geoff Queen as the travelling sidekicks to Hayes. Both are key players on the Austin and wider Texas music scene with a list of impressive associations starting from Kelly Willis, Bruce Robison and Sunny Sweeney before branching out into many other influential performers. The input from Geoff and Mike this evening was invaluable. Geoff added segments of exhilarating electric lead guitar to heaps of emotive pedal steel, while Mike’s innovative percussion had a profound effect on how the songs were received by an enthralled audience. Hayes was just the same straight laced Texan introduced to British audiences nearly a decade ago with the LITTLE ROCK album. His inimitable style, deep rooted lyrics and cool delivery makes him a distinctive performer.

Before eulogising in some of the finer detail of the headline set, full commendation needs to be reserved for Roxanne de Bastion who has been performing the opening duties throughout the tour. Whilst being aware of Roxanne via her association with Hidden Trail Records, this was the first time giving her music serious attention. What revealed itself was a confident and assured singer-songwriter possessing a string of impressively assembled songs. The two which particularly made you sit up and notice were ‘Wasteland’ from her latest EP and a new song titled ‘Run’, hopefully lined up for inclusion on a future release. The link between these two finely crafted songs was Roxanne’s continental heritage with the former being inspired by change in the city of her upbringing, Berlin, and the latter, her Hungarian grandparents. To end on an upbeat note, Roxanne conducted some audience participation with ‘Red and White Blood Cells’ and the stage was duly set for the guys to do their thing.

Highlights were aplenty from Hayes during his turn in the spotlight, on his return to a Glee Club venue in the Midlands, albeit swapping Birmingham for Nottingham on this second visit to our shores in nine months. The show was distinctly split between the gentler mellow acoustic moments and the occasional ones where the pace and volume was ramped up. Four songs were lifted from the brand new album LOVERS AND LEAVERS, with the major focus on ‘The Magic Kid’, penned in honour of his son Eli. ‘Sake of the Song’, ‘Good While It Lasted’ and ‘The Love That We Need’, also showed that this new album is worth getting into even if comes across as a little different to his earlier material.

The major inspiration for the set list were the two previous albums, with the popular ‘Drunken Poet’s Dream’ and ‘Bad Liver and a Broken Heart’ from TROUBLE IN MIND lining up as the encore numbers. The first of these had a slightly surreal introduction as Hayes imitated Bryan Adams who co-incidentally was the alternative draw for music fans in Nottingham on the evening. Just prior to the encore, the guys really rocked the joint with ‘Stomp and Holler’; likewise earlier in the set with ‘I Got a Gig’ and ‘Kmag Yoyo’. These two songs had entertaining introductions involving government backed LSD experiments and referring to a Texas coastal area as Redneck Riviera.

Poignancy and irony were on the table as Hayes introduced his themed coupling of ‘Jesus and Elvis’ and ‘She Left Me For Jesus’. These illustrated the wit and emotive side to his writing as well as proving highly entertaining listens for the audience. Among the other songs shared to a decent Glee Club gathering was the Grammy nominated ‘Chances Are’ which proved that his writing doesn’t go unnoticed in more commercial circles as Lee Ann Womack cut an excellent version. ‘Girl Downtown’ always makes me smile with the line ‘pretty as a plate’, likewise the ‘easy listening’ reference in ‘Hard Out Here’. Throw in ‘Wild Turkey’ and ‘It’s a Shame’, and from memory that completes a significant set of songs to include in a show.

Hayes Carll is an endearing artist, the writer of great songs and hopefully one who now believes in strengthening his international profile. His material is long lasting and there is ample evidence that the songs are set to roll for many years in the future. Connecting with the music of Hayes Carll is a wonderful experience and shows like this further embed the psyche of great American song writing with a British audience.

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