Hayes Carll has been lauded as the finest in the latest crop of Lone Star musical wordsmiths since his debut album. His story of traveling from green Crystal Beach busker to the wry, witty entertainer and songwriter we now know has been well documented. Each of his albums have been ambitious, charming and thoughtful, KMAG YOYO is no different.
The title comes from a famous Army acronym for Kiss My Ass Guys, You’re On Your Own, and it comes to life in the title track. With a rocking music track to support them, the lyrics detail the story of a 19 year old Army private who’s been shipped to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban and develops a seedy sidebar of selling dope. Before we know it the protagonist is on an adventure so outlandish and fun that it must be heard to be fully appreciated. I won’t spoil it here, but this track showcases Carll’s gift for winking sarcasm and humor in the face of serious issues.
The album opener is the aptly titled “Stomp and Holler”, clanking guitars and snappy rhythm sections surround one of Carll’s finest downtrodden loser winning at life anthems. It also features his funniest lyric referencing deceased R&B superstars since “Michael Jackson peaked at Thriller” with “I’m like James Brown only white and taller.”
“Hard Out Here” details the struggles of the hard-living, long distance traveling honky-tonk troubadour in a manner so specific it is evident that some of Carll’s own life is seeping through to his art. The pace remains livened with”The Lovin’ Cup”, coasts into melancholy with “Grand Parade” and “Bottle In My Hand”, and slows down to balladry with”The Letter” and “Chances Are”. The latter two allow Carll to show that he can ably place his unique warble around slow turns of wanderlust as adeptly as he can spit out rapid fire sarcasm.
Each of Carll’s albums have always held at least one extremely buzzworthy song such as his “She Left Me For Jesus” from 2008’s excellent Trouble In Mind, and the track that will get most people’s attention right away is “Another Like You”. It enables Carll to put his distinctive stamp on the old-fashioned country duet. Loretta and Conway this ain’t as Carll trades barbs about opposite political idealists hooking up over humorous playground taunts with Cary Ann Hearst.
Few songwriters know how to mix intelligence, humor and social commentary into such a potent mixture. Carll’s uniqueness and ability to tackle his subject matter in an off-kilter way all while remaining relatable is something to truly be admired. With KMAG YOYO, he remains in an outstanding creative groove that finds him excellently consistent.
If you’ve always dug his stuff, you will continue to do so and if you’ve always thought he was an oddball who wrote like Kristofferson and sang like Dylan you’re probably not going to get it. If you’re in that latter category, that’s fine with the rest of us as we can all say…KMAG, YMO (you’re missing out).