The Singer Becomes The Song: The Transformation Of Hayes Carll

Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff Photos by Jacob Blickenstaff

To get a sense of what Hayes Carll has been up to the past few years, just listen to both versions of his song “Love Don’t Let Me Down.” The first, a duet with Caitlin Rose released as a stand-alone single in 2012, features Carll as the consummate country professional, singing harmony with Rose behind a gorgeously slick pedal-steel meets piano accompaniment. “Watched my dreams all turn and run/ They left me alone, thinking they’d come back someday,” Carll croons, holding out the last syllable of “someday” with the suave intimacy of a Sinatra ballad.

Listen, then, to the solo rendition of “Love Don’t Let Me Down” included on Lovers And Leavers, Hayes Carll’s fifth full-length album and first since his 2011 breakthrough KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories). The recording begins with Carll’s soft, tired vocal accompanied merely by the quiet drone of a standup bass. When he sings that same line — the one about his dreams abandoning him — this time it’s delivered in a cracked whisper, with Carll barely pronouncing the final syllable of that final word  —”someday” — before his voice, too weary to continue, fades out and disappears.

“Love Don’t Let Me Down” is one of several new songs that, despite his original intentions, have ended up being about Hayes Carll. “When we did that song four or five years ago it did not feel like it was about my life,” says Carll, sitting in his publicist’s office... Sign In to Keep Reading

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