Singer-songwriter Barton Carroll was born in Avery County, North Carolina, but he left the Tar Heel State years ago to settle in the Pacific Northwest. That distance has given him new insight into his birthplace, which is the subject of his fourth and best album, Avery County, I’m Bound to You. This is not a fond, folksy reminiscence, but a deeply conflicted consideration of the effects of isolation and history on the heart. Carroll’s voice, which has the grain of an old reed instrument, imbues his lyrics with subtle chagrin, and his band plumb the Appalachians for musical inspiration on “Beech Mountain Waltz” and “Mama’s Making Something on the Loom.” Respectful of tradition but hardly reverent, Carroll riddles his lyrics with wry observations and the kind of telling details you find in short stories more often than in songs. “Who’s gonna know your momma made you while she was doing it to Steely Dan?” a guy asks a woman in “Laveda,” presumably mid-quarrel. When a man — the same man? — gets dumped on “It Had to Be a Train,” the romantic betrayal stings less than the means of departure: “You know that trains are way outdated, babe,” he sings. “You can’t be serious/ where’m I gonna put your stuff?” Carroll knows he can’t go home again and he’s not even sure he wants to, but he manages to locate some humor and humanity in that faraway place.
By Kevin Whitehead on 11.24.10 in Icons
No jazz musician inspires flattering imitators and devoted listeners like saxophonist John Coltrane. One reason is because there's a Coltrane for every taste: the yearning balladeer; the hard bop jackrabbit, scaling intr...
By John Morthland on 07.25.14 in Features
The Music Maker Relief Foundation has worked with 300-plus Southern roots musicians to give their music a new life.
By Hazel Cills on 05.22.14 in Features
Members of Megafaun and Mountain Man make an unexpected dance-pop record.
By Ryan Reed on 02.18.14 in Reviews
On Lost in the Trees' stunning breakout album, 2012's A Church That Fits Our Needs, Ari Picker grappled with his mother's suicide, singing in a melodramatic tenor boosted by lush, swooning strings and brass. With Past Li...