The songwriter oscillates between moving lamentations and cheeky bits on You Get It All
The singer-songwriter proves there’s always something new to learn about life and in his songwriting.
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn’t been impacted personally by the last two years. The world has and continues to endure the worst pandemic in over one hundred years. There’s a heaviness, even as the world has opened up the last several months, that permeates every waking moment. When winding your way through Hayes Carll’s latest record, You Get It All, you’ll be bowled over by one song in particular. “Help Me Remember” details the narrator’s struggle with Alzheimer’s, finding the world they once knew and its rich memories slipping away like sands through an hourglass. They’ll never get it back, but in truth, none of us will.
“It feels so familiar as I watch you walk in the room / And at first I don’t recognise you but then I damn sure recognise that perfume,” he twirls his voice, gentle but earnest. “And you kneel down beside me and gently take hold of my hand / I say baby I’m scared and I’m not sure I know who I am.”
Artist: Hayes Carll
Album: You Get It All
Label: Dualtone Records
★★★★ (4/5 stars)
The desperation hangs off his tongue, and the arrangement both caves to sorrow and seeks to uphold the meaning of life 一 the small, seemingly minute details of living are what actually mean the most. “I try to make sense of these old photographs on the wall / But they’re just faces and places that I don’t know at all,” he forges. Material things have little effect on the slow march to death; it’s the people we loved and places we beheld that outline our lives in the brightest and sharpest detail.
“Help Me Remember” etches indelibly into your consciousness so deep that it has trouble burrowing its way out again. The ballad, co-written with Josh Morningstar, is the throbbing heart to You Get It All. “Nice Things” rails against mankind’s treatment of Mother Earth (“This is why your whole world is on fire,” he brays over fiddle bedrock), whereas “In the Meantime” with Brandy Clark dismantles a seemingly loving relationship’s exterior, revealing an oozing center of bad habits and pain infliction.
Later, Carll heads out to a nowhere honky-tonk in somewhere U.S.A. with “To Keep from Being Found,” a declaration to leave his town in the rearview. Maybe one of these days. “I can’t remember where I had my breakfast / Probably some old run-down diner / In a broken motor town,” he describes. He’s a tumbleweed, seeking freedom and a new life, even if he has a heavy price to pay. “But I ain’t ever going back to Texas / I’ll pay the cost / Of bеing lost / Just to keep from being found.”
You Get It All is a demonstration in songwriting endurance. There are always new things to explore and discover, leading the best songwriters in the business to delve further into their souls. Hayes Carll does as much, and more, across all 11 songs. He bookends the story with another ballad, the piano-framed “If It Was Up to Me,” on which he mourns the state of modern living, forgiveness, and regret, and tries to make peace with the way things are instead of the way things should or could be.
“And no one that I love would ever have to leave, if it was up to me,” he mourns. In this single lyric alone, he captures the harshest inevitability of human existence: we all die, and there’s no way you can ever be ready for it.
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