Adam Carroll,
(Down Hole, 2002)

Describing Adam Carroll is like trying to tell a long joke. One of those uncomfortable rambling ones, where you fall down laughing halfway through, your friend doesn't get it, and you end lamely with "You had to be there." You can explain why it's supposed to be funny, but only by sharing the experience can they share in the humor. Happily, Adam Carroll had the kindness to record his Live show, so you can share the joke without having to explain.

Most of the songs on this album shouldn't work. Who wants to hear another song about flower children gone to seed like those in "Red Bandana Blues"? But Carroll brings a sense of humor to both his lyrics and his performance that redeem even groaners like "Snow Cone Man," which is driven by cramming in the phrase "snow cone" as many times as humanly possible. "Legs" is a perversely thoughtful ode to a woman Carroll took publicity photographs with. And does anyone besides Carroll and me remember that "Blondie" started her comics career as a flapper?

Even the more sedate songs, like "Silver Lake Side," which is sort of a love song, and "Screen Door," from the heart of a dishwasher losing the waitress of his dreams, have the power to bring out a chuckle. If you're not laughing out loud at the image of "Elvis" hitting on a waitress or the bizarre karma laid out in "Bubblegum," you may not be biologically human.

Just because Carroll can write some slick lyrics and tell a great story doesn't mean he can't play up a storm. The range of tunes may not be as bizarre as the range of subjects, but it's a fine spread nonetheless. "Smoky Mountain Taxi" has a slow, folksy feel that ends with a madcap guitar solo. The hard luck worker in "Cane River Blues" sets his story to a fast rocking tune that would do Johnny Cash proud. "South of Town" has a strong bluesy feel to match its tale of love gone off and slack living.

Match great storytelling and memorable music with a cheerfully surreal sense of humor, and you have a performance that has to be heard to be believed. Live has all the fun of a live show without the annoyance of a fellow patron spilling drinks down your back. Pick up the album and share the joke. It's worth the cover price.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 23 November 2002

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