Hayes Carll: What It Is (Dualtone Records)

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Hayes Carll doesn’t need a lengthy introduction on TwangriLa. I am confident 95% or more of the audience knows exactly who Hayes is and they probably own at least one release. Even though it may be a bit of a review, I am going to give a proper introduction to Mr. Carll. 
Hayes hails from the Houston metro area. Of course he is from Texas. It seems almost all of the great songwriters hail from the state of Texas This is Hayes’ sixth full length album. His style and songwriting style is constantly evolving. I can definitely hear the maturity in Hayes’ current offerings versus past releases. That’s in no way meant to slight any of the previous albums. I can just hear some more sophistication in the writing, music, and recording process. The rawness of previous records has been replaced with more instrumentation and a more complete sonic experience. 
It didn’t take long for a song on this album to stop me in my tracks. In fact, it only took one song for that to happen. Times Like These (Track 2) is a true Southern rock/boogie woogie number that would sound great on any Lynyrd Skynyrd record. The opening guitar riff is foreshadowing of more greatness to follow. The music in Times Like These is what makes you want to take the bait, But once you hear the words, it’s too late, the hook is firmly planted in your mouth. “In times like these I wish someone was on my side”. Trues words have never been sung or spoken. 
Times Like These is the perfect follow up to the opening track which is also very repeat worthy. None’ya (Track 1) is what I would describe as a heartbreak song. It’s the tale of unrequited love. One person gives  more than the other and the other partner seems disinterested in progressing the relationship. It’s a story as old as man, but Hayes doctors up this story and puts his own unmistakable spin on this topic. I would say None’ya is the most accurate description of unreturned love, to date.   
There is definitely quite a few songs that I would describe as political. Not preachy at all, but Hayes gets his point across by his incredible command of the English language. American Dream (Track 6) is what I would describe as a micro political song. Hayes expertly uses a tactic employed by The Drive By Truckers where both entities can take a couple of incidents in a song and actually make a larger point by very focused and poignant examples. In other words, they give us enough information for the listener to draw their own conclusions. 
What It Is is Hayes’ greatest work to date. The maturity into the recording process is evident and really does create a superior listening experience. Hayes also uses a lot of new textures that were not as developed in previous releases. This album is very symphonic at times which really adds a lot of interest to the music and actually places more emphasis on every word, which is really what Hayes is known for, and with good reason. This album gets a very strong buy recommendation. 
Listen to What It Is
Buy What It Is
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