Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hayes Carll - Denver, CO, 02/03/10

(Image from

The long-anticipated (for me at least) return of Hayes Carll to Denver was essentially everything I had hoped it would be. I chose not to see him open for Steve Earle in my own backyard of Boulder yesterday, as my hope was that I would get to hear a lot more of Carll's songs at his solo show in Denver. That turned out to be one of the better decisions of the decade thus far, as he played a solid 75 minute set, as opposed to the 30 minutes he was playing with Earle.

For some bands, 30 minutes is the perfect length, but for someone like Hayes Carll, who has three albums of great material, the longer set is needed to keep from coming away from the show saying "I just wish he had played...." Though he was clearly fighting off a bit of laryngitis, Carll never complained to the audience or tried to cut the show short on account of any vocal problems. It didn't affect the show other than not hitting a few high notes, which wasn't really what any of us were there to hear anyway.

As is one of his strong points, Carll managed the audience very well. At times, the crowd volume crept up a bit too loud, and rather than being the pretentious songwriter who tells everyone to be quiet, he simply told good stories (of course in his dry and sarcastic tone) and got everyone to listen, so the problem fixed itself. It's the only show I've been to in Colorado where the performer mentioned Texas and people cheered.

Carll mentioned at one point that this was the first time he had played a solo show in Denver, and so it was all the more impressive that the Walnut Room was sold out for this first headlining gig. A large number of older folks were in attendance, or as Carll noted, his primary fan demographic of "65 to 80 year-old men." However, there were also a good number of younger people who, if they were in Texas, would be classified as the "Texas country crowd," but since it's Colorado, they are not quite so annoying or fratty and fall into more of a general classification of Americana fans. Plenty of Ray Wylie Hubbard and Ragweed shirts were to be seen. Oddly the guys who cheered the loudest when Carll talked about Arkansas, because they had apparently gone to the same college as him, decided that they were such big fans that they should talk through the entire show. It was okay though because they were talking about how cool they were.

At one point, Hayes said that he was getting ready to release a new album in the spring, and after a short pause, followed that with "of 2013." Hopefully we won't have to wait quite that long, but given his typical 3 years between albums, it may be well into 2011 before we hear a new record. Nonetheless, he played 3 new songs in his set that indicate he's got a fair amount of good material in the works.

Lost Highway definitely has a good thing going with Hayes Carll, and judging from the crowd he drew, he has used the label to his advantage in building a strong base of Americana fans across the country. Never pretentious and always humble, Hayes Carll is one of the finest young songwriters in the country, and I look forward to many great albums to come.

Setlist for the Walnut Room show:
Drunken Poet's Dream
Wild as a Turkey
I Got a Gig
Morrissey Falls in Love at First Sight
It's a Shame
Arkansas Blues
Little Rock
Girl Downtown
I Don't Wanna Grow Up
Willing to Love Again
Flowers and Liquor
Knockin' Over Whiskeys
New song
New song
New song
Easy Come, Easy Go
She Left Me for Jesus
Wish I Hadn't Stayed So Long

Bad Liver and a Broken Heart
Down the Road Tonight

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