Indie country artist Hayes Carll first came to my attention with his hilarious single “She Left Me For Jesus“. Never a fan of country, this song managed to win me over with it’s clever storytelling that riffed off the stereotypical characters usually found in country songs.
In his album KMAG YOYO, released in 2011, Hayes proves that country music can still be fun, funny, rollicking and moving without being sappy. Opening track “Stomp and Holler” is a honky-tonk rocker about living on minimum wage and partying cause there’s nothing else to do. Second song “Hard Out Here” uses a more familiar country shuffle with drunken vocals as Hayes laments his career path, mentioning how his mom said he should have gone into “easy listening”.
There’s a lot of hidden wit in the album for those who pay attention. Title track “KMAG YOYO” is a knock on our foreign policy set to Bob Dylan‘s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, and is followed by “Another Like You“, a duet about a completely mismatched couple falling for each other in a bar, where Hayes’ character thinks “Dylan’s overrated”. These are songs for multiple listens, if just for the lyrics.
Carll isn’t afraid of injecting some pathos into his songs. “Grateful for Christmas” is a surprisingly sad and sweet song about watching your family grow, change and shrink with each new holiday season, and “Hide Me” shows a vulnerability you won’t find on a Toby Keith record.
While Carll does follow many of the usual tropes for country music, and a few of the tracks on KMAG YOYO are forgettable, he still manages to remind us that country music wasn’t always the malignant genre it’s become.