In early November, Hayes Carll announced plans to release What It Is, his sixth LP and the follow-up to 2016’s critically acclaimed Lovers And Leavers. Carll and co-producers Brad Jones, who also worked on 2008’s Trouble In Mind and 2011’s KMAG YOYO, and Allison Moorer recorded the album at Nashville’s Alex the Great Studio.
One of the standout tracks on What It Is is “Jesus And Elvis,” a tender, playful remembrance of a beloved dive bar and the lives of its patrons. The song itself would sound right at home in such a bar, with its chiming piano, laid-back beat and lonesome vocal harmonies. Carll co-wrote the song with Moorer and Matraca Berg.
“’Jesus And Elvis’ is the story of a family, a bar, the memories we carry, and the things in this world that comfort us,” Carll says. “Allison and Matraca had a writing session lined up and they let me tag along. Matraca already had the title and it reminded me of a bar I knew where it was always Christmas and there was nothing on the jukebox past 1968. I had heard a story about this place – true or not I don’t know – but it was poignant and I thought it needed to be told.”
Kenny Chesney first recorded “Jesus And Elvis” for his 2017 album Cosmic Hallelujah. Moorer wrote an essay about the experience for American Songwriter, sharing, “Though Matraca, Hayes, and I each have careers as performers, our bread and butter has always been our songwriting. Not one of us could be considered mainstream. We’re regarded as edgy or on the fringe, so having a song recorded by an artist like Kenny, who is most definitely mainstream, keeps us relevant in a way that cool factor can’t.”
What It Is is out February 15 via Dulatone. Carll shared another tune from the album, “None’ya,” earlier this month.
Listen to “Jesus And Elvis” below.