Adam Carroll: Words and Music
Adam Carroll - South of Town
Adam Carroll - Lookin' Out The Screen Door
Adam Carroll - Far Away Blues
Every so often I'll stumble across an artist that makes me wonder why I'd never listened to him before. I mean, I'd heard of Adam Carroll. People had told me he was good and that I should check him out. But, ya know, sometimes I just don't have room in my life for yet another artist, so I let him slide off my scope for a couple years.
When I saw that he was going to be song-swapping at Casbeers on a Thursday night with one of my favorites, Susan Gibson, I decided it was time to finally catch an Adam Carroll show. By the time it was over, I was so sorry, felt so guilty I hadn't seen this guy sooner, that I bought all three of his records right after the show, and turned him down when he tried to give me a special deal on the three-pack. "I'm sure they're worth the full price," I said.
I was wrong. They are worth far more than that.
Adam Carroll is one of those songwriters with a rare command of the English language as well as an amazing sense of melody. His vocal style and wry wit immediately evoke comparisons with John Prine, but where Prine leans toward more political subject matter, Carroll tends to simply, and somewhat amusedly, report his observations on life.
From his first studio record, South of Town, through Lookin' Out The Screen Door, to his latest release, Far Away Blues, the quality of Adam Carroll's songwriting never wavers. Producer Lloyd Maines worked with Adam on all three albums with the understanding that the song is the thing, not the instrumentation. We have to be able to understand the words to understand the song. Lloyd has made quite a career of letting the artists shine through without any ham-fisted production, and the Adam Carroll recordings are perfect examples of that.
If you're somewhat familiar with Adam Carroll, you may have heard "Sno-Cone Man" or "Ol' Milwaukee's Best," which are fan and radio favorites, but those songs don't do justice to the man's body of work. He is definitely one of the best lyricists we have in Texas and the music he writes complements those words perfectly.
If I may get just a bit technical for a few minutes, I'll ask you to please read through this lyric from "Red Bandanna Blues," the first song on Adam's first record, released in 2000:
Two tie-died brain-fried misfits who lived in a shack in the back of the bois d'arc woods,
A Caddo guy and a Crockett girl worked hard at stayin' stoned as best they could.
Comin' up at night they were high as a Christmas moon.
Comin' down was the fear in the four walls of their room.
'Cause they were two hard core junkies,
They stayed drunker than monkeys,
There were barrels of laughter with no time left to lose.
They had nightmares and needles with the Stones and the Beatles,
They kept all the straight-laced businessmen confused,
And the days went by with the red bandanna blues.
The rhyme scheme in the first line -- "tie-dyed brain-fried" and "shack in the back" -- tips you off that you're in for something special. Down a bit further "comin' up" contrasted with "comin' down," but expanding the phrases beyond their obvious drug connotation shows high-level thought. Juxtaposing the word "monkeys" with the word "barrels" on the next line causes the listener's mind to remember the phrase "more fun barrel full of monkeys," and you know the two subjects of the song were intent on having that much fun. "A Caddo guy and a Crockett girl" and "nightmares and needles" display the use of simple alliteration, but that ear-pleasing technique is often overlooked by other songwriters.
The wonderful thing about Adam Carroll is that I doubt that all these examples were created in his conscious mind. In fact, I'm quite sure that many, if not most, just spilled out onto the paper, and that, perhaps, even now, Adam is not aware these nuggets even exist.
By the way, I didn't scour Adam's catalog to find the above lyric. I chose it only because it is the first verse of the first song on Adam's first record. Many more examples exist. I'll leave it to you to find them as you see Adam's live show or buy his albums. But do that, and be sure to pay full price for the CDs if you buy them at the show.
Have you heard of Adam Carroll, but haven't gotten around to checking him out? Don't make the same mistake I did and get to know him right now: Adam Carroll is one artist worth making room for in your busy musical life.
You can contact our TMT writers from our contact page.