Although it might seem premature (it is only March) to name a debut disc of the year, Carrie Ann Carroll's You Should Know is on the top of my list. Despite being a relative newcomer to the Austin music scene Carrie Ann's debut album of original songs (along with a Sonny Bono cover) definitely delivers an album of tunes seasoned with Texas twang. With the impressive array of Austin musicians she was able to recruit her credibility is not an issue. They must have heard something special since these players weren't in the studio out of sympathy. Carrie's country leanings blend with her confessional folk delivery to produce an album that's biggest flaw may be: where do I file it? Carrie Ann's songwriting style and wordplay remind me of a few of my favorite singer/songwriters from a couple genres including Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett: the country part and Rain Perry and Vanessa Peters: the folkie part.
HB-Congratulations on your new disc You Should Know. Is it your first album?
CAC-Thank you! "You Should Know" is my first full length album. Many of the songs have been in my catalog for a while, but I felt like they deserved to be shared. It's produced by my husband, Joe Carroll, of Treehouse Productions in Austin, TX. Except for track 7, "Murder", which was produced by Will Sexton and also has Amy Lavere on upright bass. The album also features some of the finest musicians that Austin has to offer like Redd Volkaert (Merle Haggard), Brad Rice (Ryan Adams, Keith Urban) and Michael Hardwick (Eliza Gilkyson, Jon Dee Graham), Ollie Steck (Bob Schneider), Alan Durham (Dumptruck, Alejandro Escovedo), Tim McMaster (Will Sexton), Dave Manley (Jill Scott, Herbie Hancock), Derek Morris (Nakia, Alpha Rev), Joey Borja (Aaron Watson), Fred Mandujano (Aaron Lewis), and Vicente Rodriguez (Chuck Prophet). I like to say that it is a collection of confessions about losing and finding love.
HB-"Honeymoon" sure sounds like it is based on a true story.
CAC-It is. This song is about love first and foremost. My sister-in-law was living in Northern California battling cancer. It progressed to a point where she asked my husband if she could come live with us to help take care of her. It became difficult for her to even walk due to the tumors on her spine. Shortly after our wedding, when most are planning a honeymoon, we found ourselves flying to Sacramento to pick up an RV and a U-haul trailer to take her and all her belongings back to Texas. We drove straight through from Redding, California to Austin, TX, only stopping for gas. My husband and I would take turns driving and sleeping. I remember I was driving up the Grapevine just outside of LA in the middle of the night thinking we were never going to make it up that hill. The truth was, Ellie, my sister-in-law, was in such bad shape that we were afraid she wasn't gonna make it through the desert. It was scary and difficult, but there was no question about it, that is what love and being a partner is all about. That was our first trip together and that's where the song came from. Ellie's health improved for a bit, she had the strongest faith of anyone I have ever met and I believe that is what helped her stay alive as long as she did. The cancer eventually won and she died 9 months later. That experience had such an impact on me, it was something I never been through before. I'm sure there are more songs about that time. I just haven't been able to get them out yet.
HB-Thanks for pointing out to me that you sang on a couple tracks on Eddie Beethoven's "Blame It On The Wind".That disc has a lot of Texas royalty on it: Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Lloyd Maines and others.
CAC-I still pinch myself that I am on a record with all of those guys. That album is amazing, Eddie is such a talent and the Everydudes really did us all a justice by getting those songs out. Alan Durham, of Durham Electronics, really made all of that happen and is why I got to be on it. In the past 5 years, I have really become a huge fan of all those guys. The lyrics and the story is what grabs me in a song and no one does it better than all those guys. I fear that they don't make them like that anymore and that depresses the you-know-what outta me if I think about it too much.
HB-I love "You Know What's Really F*cked Up? (Is Not The Way To Break The News To A Girl Who Used To Love You). I can see that song becoming a real crowd favorite.
CAC-A lot of people do bring this song up. I think what it comes down to is that it's a true story and I think people like honesty. This is going back many years, before text messages were a normal, acceptable way of communication. I received a text message that literally said "You wanna hear something really f*cked up? I got married last week". That's where the song came from. To all the guys out there, it's still not okay to use text messages to break certain types of news. It's really a public service announcement.
HB-Texan or transplant?
CAC-Transplant. I've lived here for just over 6 years. I was born and raised in New Jersey. I'm a big fan of New Jersey and think it's a great place to live and grow up. But, I did always feel like I was born in the wrong zip code and wanted to be closer to wealth of music and art that exists here in Austin. It was the best decision I ever made.
HB-Some of your favorite songwriters?
CAC-There are so many. The legendary Texas songwriters we talked about earlier as well as Guy Clark and the songwriters that were influenced by them like Todd Snider and Hayes Carll. Great storytellers and performers like Steve Poltz. Kacy Crowley from Austin is always at the top of my list. Two of my favorite albums of last year were by Amanda Shires and Holly Williams. I love classic country artists like Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton. I'm also a big fan of Jack White. I don't necessarily write like them, or want to, it's the fearlessness that inspires me. I don't ever want to write a song because I think it's going to be well liked, I just want to be honest and fearless. I'm working on it.
HB-I love finding surprises in liner notes: "A Cowboys Work Is Never Done", Sonny Bono?
CAC-This was a song that Joe Carroll suggested that I cover about a year ago. Then a few months ago, just as we were finishing recording the album, it came on the iPod one night and I said, "That song is really cool, I want to record that". He sighed, "I told you that a year ago". And that's what it's like when your producer is also your husband. Ha! Luckily, his studio is in our house, so the next day we got up and recorded it. The orchestration of the original is amazing. We weren't trying to copy that, we did a spaghetti western take on it, complete with latin guitar. I love the feel of the tune and also the innocence of the lyrics.
HB-As an artist it must be pretty handy having a partner (Joe Carroll) who is a talented musician and producer!
CAC-It is great. The reason I have so many amazing musicians on my record is because of Joe and the studio here at the house. They come by to work on other projects or recordings they have to do and he somehow convinced them to play on my record. Joe is so talented and I'm so grateful to him for all the time and hard work he put in on this record, for free! Michael Hardwick's guitar work really makes this record and having Redd Volkaert pick on my more country tunes is priceless. That's all because of Joe. I'm a lucky girl.
HB-Best of luck and congratulations on a very impressive disc!
CAC-Thank you so much for taking the time to listen. I really appreciate it and am thrilled that you like it!