You Get It All is Carll’s best work since his debut, every track here an outright winner.
An artist whose rapturous reception in his early career seemed to sit uneasy with him, Hayes Carll has often struggled to release albums with coherent points of view or consistently edited songs, resulting in a catalogue that has some glorious highlights and a whole lot of material that sounds about three-quarters cooked. You Get It All, co-produced by Allison Moorer and Kenny Greenberg, is a pleasant surprise, then, as it’s handily the most cohesive and quality-controlled set Carll has recorded since his debut. The album boasts more frequent traditional-country flourishes than any of his prior efforts, with fiddle and dobro complimenting a set of narratives that are alternately heartbreaking, provocative, and uproarious. By allowing his wiseass sense of humor to shine in the context of songs that otherwise sound like more conventional country and folk music, Carll stakes out a comfortable and productive middle ground between the likes of Todd Snider and Ray Wylie Hubbard.
The down-home blues arrangement of “She’ll Come Back to Me” could’ve been lifted from one of Hubbard’s fantastic late-career records, and Carll tempers the song’s lovelorn tale by saying his ex will return when, “Dolly just can’t sing.” Opener “Nice Things” spins a cockeyed theology in which the angel of God visits Georgia, only to get arrested for smoking weed, admonishing her would-be followers for their lack of empathy, compassion, and critical thought; it’s a song that challenges stereotypes about country music as having just one type of story to tell, and it does so with thoughtfulness and a real sense of wit. Elsewhere, Carll’s relationship with Moorer has inspired a terrific batch of more straightforward love songs — the title track, in particular, is as lovely as anything Carll’s ever done — and he’s joined by Brandy Clark on an absolutely killer duet, “In the Mean Time,” that’s certainly a #1 hit in some alternate timeline where country radio actually still embraces the genre’s diverse styles and perspectives. Every Carll album is good for a song or two like that, but, with You Got It All, Carll has finally released another record on which every song is an outright winner: An ace songwriter at the top of his game makes You Got It All handily one of the year’s best.
Published as part of Album Roundup — October 2021 | Part 1.