(Editors’ Note: We apologize for the long March hibernation on this site. The new posts should be coming with more regularity in the future.)
Pity the poor folks who sauntered in late to the sold-out Hayes Carll show. Sure, they got a healthy dose of Warren Hood and The Goods, in their role as Hayes’ backing band, but they missed out on a fine opening set by the young Austin-based quintet.
Boyish band leader Warren Hood is an accomplished, Berklee School of Music-trained violinist, the son of well-known Austin sideman Champ Hood, and a member of the San Francisco-based acoustic/newgrass band, The Waybacks. Equally adept at classical, Cajun, Western swing and gypsy jazz styles, Hood’s violin/fiddle playing was captivating, from the opening notes of the Doug Kershaw-like opener (“Going To New Orleans”) through the end of their set (regrettably, most of the songs were new, titles unannounced, other than that they will appear on the band’s CD coming out on June 4) . And Hood is not the only member of the band with impressive musical genes. Keyboardist/singer Emily Gimble is the granddaughter of pioneering Western swing fiddler Johnny Gimble, a former member of Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys. She has a sultry, soulful voice and a deft touch on the keys, complementing Hood’s soaring violin solos.
Hood and The Goods provided complementary backing for Hayes Carll’s set, which was less rocking than his previous two visits to the Twin Cities. The first four selections came from Hayes’ 2008 release, “Trouble In Mind”: the gentle, unrequited love ballad “Beaumont;” the stone-cold country of “Wild As A Turkey” (minus the pedal steel of the original); the lively Texas two-stepper, “It’s A Shame;” and “Girl Downtown,” a wry story-song about two ordinary folks who “maybe could be the one” for each other.
Mixed in with the set were a number of hilarious stories, including one where Hayes described living in Croatia, “where about half the country was unemployed, so there were a lot of people to hang out with.” He described playing handball with a handball team there and heading to the shower one day after a match, only to find the entire team blocking the entrance to the shower. Puzzled, Hayes looked to the one team member who spoke the best English, who announced, “OK, let’s see! Is everything REALLY bigger in Texas?!” As the laughter from the audience died down, Hayes remarked, self-deprecatingly, “There were a lot of disappointed people that day.”
“I Got A Gig” was prefaced with a lengthy tale about his early days, playing a tiny bar in coastal Texas, where a local drug dealer named Mike would use his profits to stock his own private zoo. Hayes remarked that Mike would occasionally load up his lion in a barred trailer “just like a circus trailer” and drive it to Hayes’ gigs at Bob’s Sports Bar & Grill, where Hayes could turn around onstage and gaze out the window behind him, at the lion staring back at him from his cage. Hayes was in England later that year, when Hurricane Ike hit the Gulf, and, anxious for news of the event, he picked up a London newspaper and was stunned to see a picture of Mike’s lion on the front page. It seems that Mike had turned all of his animals loose, to fend for themselves, before he evacuated inland, and the lion wound up inside a church, along with four other poor residents who’d decided to ride out the storm, in an uncomfortable stand-off for several days. (Sounds vaguely like a recent popular book and movie, doesn’t it?)
Back to the music. Hayes and Emily Gimble reprised his duet with Cary Hearst (Shovels and Rope), “Another Like You,” from his 2011 release “KMAG YOYO,” with Emily giving as good as she got on that whimsical tale of sexual attraction overcoming political and personal differences. After the “Subterranean Homesick Blues”- like title track to “KMAG YOYO,” Hayes sent The Goods offstage, leaving just he and Warren Hood to do a 3-song mini-set, consisting of a new song co-written with Darrel Scott called “The Magic Kid,” (about his 9-year old aspiring magician son), followed by his “license plate song,” “Live Free Or Die,” from his 2002 debut album, and culminating in the hilarious road misadventure song, “Bible On The Dash.” Hayes and Corb Lund trade verses of the song on Corb’s current album, “Cabin Fever,” but for some reason Hayes sang the whole song himself, rather than enlisting the assistance of Mr. Hood.
The rest of the band gradually returned to the stage as Hayes strummed and began singing the opening lines of one of his signature tunes, “Bad Liver And A Broken Heart.” Where the song is normally a rave-up high point of the evening, here it was played at half speed, making it mournful and melancholy, rather than rowdy and rocking. Personally, I prefer rowdy and rocking.
Hayes is a great collaborator, as witness the various duets and co-writing noted above, and he spent a short time near the end of his set talking about a tongue-in-cheek side project of his and Johnny Evans’, that they call The Ego Brothers. Corb Lund was just made a member, Hayes announced, and his contribution is a brief couplet that Hayes sang, that went “I wonder what all the ugly people are doing tonight?” Hayes then sang The Ego Brothers only official composition, “Ain’t Enough Of Me To Go Around.” Classic braggadocio about being so sexually attractive that, for the sake of womankind, “When Momma had me, she should have had two or three.”
Hayes closed out the set with his Ray Wylie Hubbard collaboration, “Drunken Poet’s Dream,” followed by the uptempo “The Lovin’ Cup,” and the wistful “I Wish I Hadn’t Stayed So Long.” The encore set closed out with the witty, blasphemous “She Left Me For Jesus,” (somehow fitting, Hayes announced perversely, for the night before Easter) and a rollicking “Stomp And Holler.” Before playing “She Left Me …” Hayes noted that this was only the third night that he and Hood and The Goods had played together, and they had not actually worked that song up as part of their set list. But, the band played with confidence and the smile on Hayes’ face betrayed a good deal of satisfaction at his choice of the band to tour with.