Carll presents these songs with open hands and heart; he made Lovers and Leavers to prove something to himself. With the canny assistance of Henry's sensitive production, the songwriter's vulnerability rises into open view and elevates his craft along with it. In Carll's world -- and hopefully ours -- love wins, no matter what. .
Never one to rush an album, singer/songwriter Hayes Carll was good for a new release every three years following his 2002 debut, Flowers & Liquor. Carll could have been excused for rushing the follow up to KMAG YOYO & Other American Stories—his 2011 album that served as a critical benchmark and only release to chart—yet he chose to extend rather than shorten the waiting period by two years. Sidelined by events such as a divorce, a new love and simply taking time off to reassess life itself, the jocular musical descendant of Texans Townes Van Zandt, Jerry Jeff Walker and Guy Clark, Carll returns a bit wiser and in a pensive mood on Lovers and Leavers.
Arriving almost six years after his breakthrough KMAG YOYO and its terrific blend of humour, insight and heartache, this melancholy set from one of Americana's most revered singer-songwriters can't help but feel like a curveball.Gone is much of the caustic wit and almost all of the drunken drawling energy that drove that record. Here, stripped down to barely-there arrangements of minimalist percussion, bass and infrequent piano by producer Joe Henry, a scratchy-voiced Carll is left alone at the microphone with his acoustic guitar. The idea was surely to present this singular songwriter's most intimate record in its rawest form.
Lovers and Leavers isn't an anomaly. Lone Star codification opens Hayes Carll's 2002 debut Flowers and Liquor, a jaunty drawl befitting Ray Wylie Hubbard on "Highway 87" (see label above) and "Naked Checkers" stripping down to its Lyle Lovett. That fan appreciation resulted in the former outlaw's penmanship on the succeeding Little Rock ("Chickens") and a co-write by Guy Clark ("Rivertown").