By Barry Gilbert
St. Louis Post-Dispatch


July 26, 2005

Hayes Carll
"Little Rock"
Highway 87 Music

Little Rock" proves there will be no sophomore slump for Texas singer-songwriter Hayes Carll.

His new CD builds on the things that made 2002's "Flowers and Liquor" such a memorable debut: sharp writing, a sense of humor and songs that rock, even when they're not up-tempo.

Produced by the sure-handed R.S. Field, "Little Rock" snaps out of the speakers on the strength of a core band featuring Kenny Vaughn on guitars, Jared Reynolds on bass, Jimmy Lester on drums and Allison Moorer on harmony vocals.

The CD kicks off with the honky-tonk of "Wish I Hadn't Stayed So Long," a travelogue in which the singer arrives in "Music City (where) they tell you, you ain't nuthin', just in case you might forget."

"Down the Road Tonight," typical of Carll's wry side, is a rocker that jams together dozens of people, places and things, including Michael Jackson, Ray Wylie Hubbard and Carll's grandmother.

Troubadour Hubbard shows up again as the co-writer with Carll of "Chickens," which is not for anyone who thinks of chickens as pets; and yet another Texas legend, Guy Clark, joins Carll in co-writing the redemption saga "Rivertown."

"Sit in With the Band" wonders why some music folks are successful and others aren't, and "Little Rock" is a rocking Valentine to Arkansas because, Carll writes in the liner notes, generations of fellow Texans have already written about all of the cool places back home.