Album Review – Hayes Carll’s “You Get It All”
Hayes Carll came out promising that his seventh record would lean more heavily on the country influences of the native Texan compared to his previous releases. And sure, You Get It All probably is a bit more country-sounding. But more importantly, it’s a good record. In fact it’s a pretty great one. And country or not, it’s a Hayes Carll record. It’s the kind of record you hope Hayes Carll delivers nearly 20 years into his career.
The measurements for “success” for a true songwriter like Hayes Carll don’t fall upon conventional gradients. It’s certainly not pinned to sales, streaming numbers, or chart placements. True songwriters go for the long game. They play for legacy and influence. They want their songs to withstand the test of time. They may not even see their deserved recognition in their lifetimes. That’s the pact they make with the craft, and the faith they have in how a great song will endure.
As acclaimed as Hayes Carll has been in his career—from his emergence with the comparisons with Townes Van Zandt, to now as an Americana mainstay—it’s also been spotty at times. The Hayes Carll of 2011’s KMAG YOYO may have been a bit too much of a caricature of his earlier work. After a five year hiatus, 2016’s Lovers and Leavers might have been a little too understated, with Hayes still trying to find his legs in a post-sobriety world.
But if you don’t think John Prine and Dylan didn’t have soft patches in their careers, you’ve never heard Prine’s Pink Cadillac, but he’s still considered a legend. Again, it’s the long game that’s important for a songwriter. We started seeing signs of the original Hayes Carll balanced with a more mature and cerebral Hayes Carll in 2019’s What It Is. That positive trend continues with You Get It All to where this feels like maybe the definitive work of the 2nd half of his career.
Hayes Carll’s relationship with Allison Moorer—who helped produce this album with Kenny Greenberg—has been a constructive and efficacious development for Hayes. It’s also inspired some great love songs, including the title track of this record.
The album starts out with the hard-pounding Outlaw half time of “Nice Things,” immediately delivering on Carll’s “more country” promise, though the lyricism is decisively Hayes, all sardonic yet introspective. I don’t know if Johnny Paycheck would have recorded a song about the angel of God getting arrested for smoking pot. But he sure sang a lot of songs about getting arrested.
Being country isn’t just about instrumentation. Carll’s duet with Aaron Raitiere starts off with a fiddle, but it’s the country Gospel style of the song and writing that makes it country. Same goes for Carll’s duet with Brandy Clark, with “In The Mean Time” taking advantage of country’s tradition of double-entendres.
The second half of the record is where Hayes really finds his stride. The rockin’ “Keep From Being Found” delivers the best line of the album: “I’ll pay the cost of being lost just to keep from being found.” The aching tension of Carll’s voice in the soulful “The Way I Love You” makes you believe every damn word. And the sweet and open “If It Was Up To Me” might be the best of the set.
At times it still feels like Hayes is writing the kinds of songs he thinks great songwriters write, as opposed to the kinds of songs great songwriters actually write, if that makes sense. “Help Me Remember” has been praised for its insight and compassion into the condition of Alzheimer’s. But like the plot of a network television drama, it’s a little bit too “on the nose” to pull at everyone’s heart strings equally. Hayes really lays down in his Ray Wylie Hubbard grit n’ groove influences on “She’ll Come Back To Me” resulting in a heel stomping good time, but this “opposite day” stuff has been done on quite a few occasions.
We’re being picky though because this is Hayes Carll, and you expect a certain caliber of song from him. If “Help Me Remember” or “She’ll Come Back To Me” populated on country radio, they’d be Song of the Year contenders.
“The Way I Love You” and another good song “Different Boats” from this album are more Memphis than Texas or Nashville. Don’t go in expecting a hard country record from Hayes Carll here, because you’ll be disappointed. But do expect You Get It All to be one good song after another, with a few great ones too, and most everything you want a Hayes Carll album to be, country or not.
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Matt "Mayday" Saracen
November 1, 2021 @ 9:50 am
This is definitely in my Top 10 albums of the year. As someone who watched my father battle Alzheimer’s for nine years and watched my mother take amazing care of him, “Help Me Remember” hits me pretty hard. And “Nice Things” just may be one of my favorite songs of the year. It’s funny, insightful, and best of all, it’s country.
November 1, 2021 @ 10:27 am
I’m a big fan but I always feel everything he puts out is 3/4’s of what it should be. It’s like a trip to the red zone and just taking a field goal. I’m hoping his older years and albums finally hit the level I expect from him.
November 1, 2021 @ 10:36 am
Looking forward to this,the vinyl has been delayed in the UK for a few weeks so I’ll have to wait a bit.What It Is was one of my favourite albums of 2019 so I’m expecting good things.
Lovers and Leavers was good too, maybe a bit of a transitional album being more serious singer songwriter fare than previous albums but it has allowed him to move on to the albums he’s doing now a mixture of his previous wit and serious social issue songs
November 1, 2021 @ 10:49 am
Like what I have heard on this album so far. Saw him at legendary Shank Hall during the KMAG YOYO tour and it was a killer show. He was sharp, the band was on fire and he was funny. Todd Snider, funny. (Yes, that is a compliment!). He was definitely excited to play Mile O last year, but a big outdoor show rarely can complete with a club so it wasn’t quite the same as the first time. All that said, I am looking forward to seeing him again.
November 1, 2021 @ 1:56 pm
The first time I saw him, he opened for Todd Snider at the Sons of Hermann Hall in Dallas. Great show.
November 1, 2021 @ 10:54 am
One of the best albums of the year so far for me, along with Vincent Neil Emerson.
Thor’s Country Bunker
November 1, 2021 @ 11:10 am
Hey man. Pink Cadillac is great record.
November 1, 2021 @ 2:49 pm
Yes Pink Cadillac is a decent album, at least in my estimation. Why, you ask when many “critics” panned it at the time? It is a different kind of record for Prine and that was the point. Prine wanted to do something more visceral and rock and roll in lieu of his usual acoustic songwriter style. He got together with Knox and Jerry Phillips in the Sam Phillips studio in Memphis. ( Not Sun studios, as Sam had sold that by this time.) Sam Phillips Studio was and still is, a GREAT place to record. The echo chamber is amazing! Anyhow, Knox and Jerry worked with Prine many weeks on this, doing what they wanted to. There are some covers on the record including Ubangi Stomp, Baby Lets Play House. ( A nod to the Sun legacy and done in fun) also a great song called Killing The Blues by the great Rowland Salley ( Chris Isaaks bass player) John does it justice. Sam Phillips himself came in out of retirement and lent his production skills to “Saigon” and one other track I think. Sam reportedly got Prine amped up and coaxed a more spirited vocal out of him. While its true there are several covers on it, you cant say Prine didnt put his original stamp on them. I like the tracks Automobile and Chinatown very much. Is the album considered definitive? No. But Prine loved it, as did the Phillips boys, it was a passion project and where Prine was at the time. And it wasnt the last time he would “rock out”, check out Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings, some unusual tracks on there too. But, I dont knock Trig for dismissing it, its popular to pan this record.
November 2, 2021 @ 10:20 am
I can’t believe a JP version of Killing the Blues slipped by me all these years, but thank you sir for getting Pink Cadillac into the rotation this morning!
November 1, 2021 @ 5:48 pm
My more global point about John Prine and “Pink Cadillac” is that when it was released, folks thought Prine’s run as a premier songwriter was done. People thought Johnny Cash’s career was over in 1967 before he released his prison records. Same was said about Bob Dylan before he released “Blood On The Tracks.” My point is with these songwriters, you can’t focus on one specific song, album, or era, or how things are regarded in their time. They’re playing the long game.
I had a couple more paragraphs I wrote in this review, basically saying what I said above, and 86’d them for space. It felt like a tangent. But if folks now regard “Pink Cadillac” more favorably over time, I think it proves my point.
November 2, 2021 @ 6:56 am
I’m a big fan of Hayes’ early albums, but haven’t been able to get into his last couple other than a song here and there. Tone honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this album either. But this album has turned out to be a pleasant surprise. His best album in years.
November 2, 2021 @ 8:03 am
Interesting the relative level of feedback thus far from this article. Maybe he just is not controversial enough!
November 2, 2021 @ 9:48 am
I’m a bit bit surprised at the lack of discussion or interest in this release as well, both here and on social media. Not really seeing much discussion or coverage of it in other places either. This is an important artist, and an important album. Unfortunately I’m afraid that music coverage is just becoming a different flavor of political coverage.
November 2, 2021 @ 9:54 am
To quote you in part – I never thought Trigger would lose any significant amount of commenters to “culture war rage reporting”. To be honest, these are the articles I most like reading the comment section on because they can deeper my appreciation for the beauty of country music!
November 2, 2021 @ 5:06 pm
I don’t know that it’s a political thing so much as an Americana thing.
I think a lot of us discovered the modern artists in the genre with albums like “Southeastern” or “Metamodern” from 2013 and 2014 respectively. And the unfortunate thing is, that was kind of the pinnacle of the genre. Even Hayes Carl’s best albums came out before the two I’ve already mentioned.
Now I know a lot of good albums have been released since then, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that most critically hyped albums in the genre (Tyler Childers aside) over recent years have been let downs, and this includes Hayes efforts. Couple this with the deterioration of people’s attention spans and a new Hayes album barely makes a splash. The critics told me the last two were good too, but I just found them so bland. I was wondering if I was listening to an entirely different album than the one that his PR team sent to the critics. So I’m just not excited about this one either, no matter how much positive ink is spilled, I know it’s a bias I have now. And I loved the first few Hayes records.
This leads to a larger issue, of critics losing credibility when they only want to write puff pieces about artists they already like, or agree with politically, even if the work they are writing about in particular isn’t quality. It seems to be an “ends justify the means” thing. “Yea ‘Something More Than Free’ isn’t great, but Jason Isbell needs the coverage and we know he can write a good song so we can fudge it a little bit and cater to his PR team on this one. He’ll deliver on the next one, plus we agree with his politics” And down the slippery slope we go.
Im not accusing SCM of this, this seems to have been the one place this doesn’t occur. And reading back, I came full circle and just ended up agreeing with you. I’m still going to post it though, since I’ve already written it. I don’t know. This is why I’m just a dummy with WiFi and don’t run a music blog.
November 2, 2021 @ 11:15 am
Great album, I listened through twice today. “Nice Things”, “You Get It All”, “Any Other Way”, and “To Keep From Being Found” were all fun.
“Help Me Remember” is a tremendous song, but a damn day ruiner.
(Not) The Ghost Of OlaR...
November 2, 2021 @ 2:20 pm
Well…Hayes Carll flew under my radar (except for 2-3 songs over the years)…so You Get It All is the first time i listened to a full album & so far…it’s a fine piece of work.
Not every track is a winner but there are enough songs worth to push the repeat button: “Leave It All Behind”, “Nice Things”, “If It Was Up To Me”, “Any Other Way”, “You Get It All” & “Help Me Remember”).
“You Get It All” is #30 (after 11 weeks) on the Texas Top 100 (Texas Regional Radio Report).
November 2, 2021 @ 4:53 pm
Trouble in Mind is the only one of his records I can get down with. I don’t know why. I think he’s kind of corny maybe. I’m not sure. Unless you’re Hayes or you wrote his songs don’t get angry and snap back at me. Everyone is allowed their opinion even if it doesn’t jive with yours.
This record got one spin. I’ll give it another. None of the songs really got their hooks in me.
November 3, 2021 @ 11:24 am
Referencing Guy Clark in the title track puts this in album of the year contention.
November 4, 2021 @ 10:59 am
My wife and I have seen Hayes more than a dozen times over the years. We’ve seen him solo acoustic, as a duo, and with a band. We had the great pleasure of seeing him the past Tues. 11/2 at the Ardmore Music Hall and he never disappoints us. His band was spectacular and the set-list was solid with a mix of songs from his new record and some great old classic. And his story telling between songs is bar none the best. Hayes keep doing what you do.
November 11, 2021 @ 4:42 pm
I think Hayes is one of the best artists putting out material now. He has a style of his own, and I have enjoyed pretty much I have heard from him, haven’t got the album yet, but hoping to have it for weekend! I am expecting to enjoy it, he is one of the artists I always count on, I would be happy to pick up anything he puts out.
I am not sure he is ready to be classed in the same group as Guy Clark, John Prine and Townes, (I would also have Steve Earle in that group) but for me it won’t be long. Give it 10 years or 4 albums and he will be there!