Barton Carroll, Avery County, I’m Bound to You

Stephen M. Deusner

By Stephen M. Deusner

on 12.30.13 in Reviews
For this North Carolina native, home is where the heart is broken

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on “It Had to Be a Train,” the romantic betrayal stings less than the means of departure: “You know that trains are way outdated, babe,” he sings.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.