by Julian Spivey
Hayes Carll and Band of Heathens put on one helluva show at The Rev Room in Little Rock on Thursday, April 20. The mix of Carll and Band of Heathens previously put on a great show at The Rev Room in December of 2014.
Band of Heathens, hot off the release of their sixth studio release Duende, showed The Rev Room crowd what great American roots-rock-country sounds like. Band of Heathens performed five of the new album’s 10 tracks during their 10-song set on Thursday night, including the awesome sounding “All I’m Asking” and “Green Green of California,” with band member Gordy Quist wishing the crowd a happy 4/20 day, saying the only thing he’s seen in this country that brings everybody together like music is marijuana. Ed Jurdi added the nice “Last Minute Man” to the set off Duende.
Band of Heathens also exited the crowd with previous albums cuts like “Jackson Station” and crowd-pleaser “Hurricane,” which I remember perfectly from seeing them in 2014. It was the performance that made Band of Heathens stick in my head all these years. The group would finish their opening set up with the rocking “Trouble Came Early” off their recent album.
The great thing about Band of Heathens touring with Hayes Carll is that after they’re finished with their opening set they return to the stage as Carll’s backing band, making for one terrific combination of musical talent.
Carll opened his set with “Grand Parade” off his 2011 album KMAG YOYO (& other American Stories), before launching into the softer sound of his newest release Lovers and Leavers from last year with the terrific “The Love That We Need” and “My Friends.” Carll would also perform the new tracks “Sake of the Song” and “Jealous Moon” later in his set, with the faithful crowd singing along. Some thought that fans of Carll wouldn’t adapt to the softer singer-songwriter sound of his most recent album, but the reaction to these performances proved otherwise.
Carll also debuted a couple of new songs on Thursday night, which he said he’s selling as singles on Patreon, releasing one a month. These songs were “Things You Don’t Wanna Know” and “Different Boats,” which he said would be available on Patreon soon. It’s an interesting way of releasing new music, though not one I particularly like.
As many who follow Carll know he has ties to Central Arkansas, as he attended college at Hendrix University in Conway, Ark. about 30 miles north of Little Rock. For this reason, his Rev Room shows always draw a healthy crowd and he seems to enjoy performing in an area he once called home for a few years. He performed “Little Rock” and “Faulkner Street,” about a place he used to live at in Conway, much to the crowd’s delight.
Carll’s raucous, upbeat tunes are always the ones that really get the Rev Room crowd grooving and there certainly wasn’t any shortage of these during the evening, even with some of the softer tunes from Lovers and Leavers in the set. Among the foot stompers were “I Got a Gig,” “KMAG YOYO,” “Hard Out Here” and the set ender “Bad Liver and Broken Heart.”
I think my four favorite performance of this terrific show were all played consecutively. Carll performed “Beaumont” and “Girl Downtown,” both from his excellent 2008 release Trouble In Mind, solo with just his guitar as Band of Heathens took a short break backing him. Carll must have felt particularly good on this night, because I could see his setlist from where I stood and “Girl Downtown” was ad-libbed. Band of Heathens then rejoined the stage for rip-roaring performances of “Drunken Poet’s Dream” and “Bible on the Dash,” a song he co-wrote with Canadian country singer Corb Lund, which appears on Lund’s terrific 2012 album Cabin Fever as a duet.
Carll’s fantastic encored included “Wish I Hadn’t Stayed So Long,” from his 2005 sophomore album Little Rock, and the hard-charging “Stomp and Holler,” from 2011’s KMAG YOYO, which was a perfect way to end his rocking show and includes one of my favorite lyrics: “I’m like James Brown/only white and taller/and all I wanna do is stomp and holler.”