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story.lead_photo.caption This cover image released by Dualtone shows What It Is, a new release by Hayes Carll. Courtesy of Dualtone via AP

A- Hayes Carll

What It Is


Dysfunctional relationships abound on Hayes Carll's new album, from the one-on-one wounds described in the opener "None'ya" to the cultural divide of "Fragile Men." Even so, there's a sunny lilt to the sardonic Texan's familiar warble on the title cut, and a sweetness to the 12-song set that suggests it benefited from a woman's touch.

Carll's fiancee, singer-songwriter Allison Moorer, co-wrote half of the material on What It Is and also co-produced the album. Perhaps she had a hand in the album's most moving moment -- the surprising, cinematic swell of a string orchestra midway through "Be There," a lament on distrust.

Carll also uses strings elsewhere, and horns as well, broadening his palette to achieve a wide variety of musical styles -- from the banjo shuffle of the title cut and the fiddle boogie of "Times Like These" to the boozy Stones-y romper "Beautiful Thing." There's even a flute on the closing pledge of devotion, the lovely "I Will Stay."

The common denominator is Carll's deft lyrical touch. He can deliver wry social commentary, such as on "Fragile Men" and "Wild Pointy Finger," without antagonizing anyone. And regarding domestic issues, he knows how to make the personal universal, which is why "Jesus and Elvis" becomes much more than just a song about a bar.

That's What It Is — Carll's prettiest album, and perhaps his best.

Hot tracks: "Be There," Beautiful Thing," "I Will Stay," "Jesus and Elvis"


The Associated Press

This image shows the cover of "Signs," the latest release by Tedeschi Trucks Band. Courtesy of Fantasy Records/Concord via AP
This image shows the cover of "Signs," the latest release by Tedeschi Trucks Band. Courtesy of Fantasy Records/Concord via AP

B+ Tedeschi Trucks Band



You can't avoid being mesmerized by Susan Tedeschi's singing on Signs.

The Tedeschi Trucks Band has a dozen members, including three other vocalists, a pair of drummers, a horn section, keyboards, bass and guitarist Derek Trucks — Tedeschi's husband — and their fourth studio album makes full and flavorful use of the whole talented lineup.

Even as the band again sounds fantastic, Tedeschi's vocals keep finding ever deeper shades of feeling and meaning on this varied collection of blues-inflected soul and rock tunes — all written by different combinations of band members, some with guests like Warren Haynes or Doyle Bramhall II.

She soars on "Still Your Mind," giving the already glass-half-full lyrics — "Don't let the darkness of the world enter your soul/You know the light of your smile is what make me whole" — additional power and emotion. The song's extended instrumental coda is steaming hot, but you keep hoping she'll return for another verse or two before it's over. It begs for a cover by Pearl Jam.

Tedeschi also shines on the quieter songs, like survival guide "Strengthen What Remains," featuring a string section, and closer "The Ending," a happy/sad tribute to Bruce Hampton, a TTB mentor and founder of Atlanta's legendary Hampton Grease Band who collapsed on stage during his 70th birthday concert.

"Signs, High Times" launches the album with room for solo lines from the band's other singers — Mike Mattison, Alecia Chakour and Mark Rivers — and a can-do/must-do attitude of getting your act together in challenging times.

It's a logical start, taking into account that keyboardist/flutist Kofi Burbridge was hospitalized after a heart attack and some of the group's closest friends and relatives — Hampton, Butch Trucks and Gregg Allman — passed away just as work was due to start the album.

Expressions of hope, renewal, affection and commitment abound, making Signs an inspirational album for the times.

Hot tracks: "Still Your Mind," "Strengthen What Remains," "Signs, High Times"


The Associated Press


• Solange, "Jerrod." There's an insistent, syncopated pulse — but no drumbeat — behind "Jerrod," an invitation to a timid lover from Solange's new album, When I Get Home. She offers openness, intimacy and sharing: "Give you all the things that I want," she promises, her voice nestling amid chromatic chords that refuse to resolve; her vocal phrases ride directly atop the bass line, then pull away. Nothing feels solid until the song segues into the next track, "Binz," and the drums arrive.


The New York Times

• Weezer, "High as a Kite." Angst wrapped in mockery surrounded by pop-history allusions with deniable lyrics bonded to endearing melodies — yes, Weezer has released a new album called Weezer with a parenthetical color (The Black Album). "High as a Kite" treats its cliche title seriously: "Miles above it's so serene/I'm letting go of all the troubles that I've seen," Rivers Cuomo sings, putting a yearning tone in his voice. The track summons the orchestral stateliness of late-1960s Beatles and Beach Boys alongside bird calls and distorted lead guitar, flaunting craft and keeping its attitude guarded.


The New York Times

Style on 03/12/2019

Print Headline: Hayes Carll: He knows just exactly What It Is


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