Detente by way of daiquiri may not be a possibility for the suits on Capitol Hill, but spinning tales of dissolution and depression — and doing so with an unfailing sense of humor — has become a winning formula for Carll, a tall, unassuming, bearded Texan singer-songwriter who emerged from the maverick-country underground three years ago.
Appearing at a so-sold-out-you-couldn’t-move Rock & Roll Hotel on Saturday night, Carll sang in a cracked baritone over classic country-western rhythms you’ve heard a thousand times before.
Yet one is hard-pressed to dismiss his appeal.
Not insignificantly, Carll can turn a hilarious phrase, often at his own expense. “Everybody’s talking ’bout the shape I’m in / They say, ‘Boy, you ain’t a poet, just a drunk with a pen,’ ” he sang on “Hard Out Here,” a faux-plea for sympathy for road-weary musicians.
“Here I am standing in the desert with a gun / Thought of going AWOL, but I’m too afraid to run / So I got myself a new plan, stealing from the Taliban / Make a little money turning poppies into heroin.”
Carll took several turns accompanying himself solo on acoustic guitar, but on songs such as the Stonesy rocker “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart” and the swamp-blues “I Got a Gig,” he eased into the background to spotlight his band, which included the able-bodied Scott Davis on lead guitar, lap-steel and accordion.
Comparisons to Texan giants such as Townes Van Zandt, Doug Sahm and Guy Clark have proved inevitable, but Carll wears the legacy lightly.