There are three songs on Hayes Carll’s upcoming fifth album with the word “love” in their title — an LP that is named, in fact, Lovers and Leavers. After trudging through a divorce, it’s not surprising to see the Texan reflect on the array of emotions that come with such a substantial loss; unless, however, you take note of the fact that Carll has not always been a particularly confessional writer, often choosing instead to find the unifying quirk within everyday moments.
The album’s first single “The Love That We Need,” while explicitly personal, still falls perfectly into Carll’s special corner of perception. Sure, it’s a song about the last desperate puffs of a romance running on fumes, but it’s also a snapshot of the mundane but significant scenes of normal life; about the expectations that motivate our choices. And that’s something Carll’s always done extraordinarily well — his holiday ode “Grateful for Christmas,” from 2011’s KMAG YOYO, talks not of joyful caroling or movie-grade mistletoe kisses, but tacky flannels and pitifully dressed salads. So it makes sense that “The Love That We Need” doesn’t show a relationship burning up in Rihanna-style flames but succumbing to reality, because he’s always been a poet less interested in pomp than circumstance.
“Baby it’s a hard way, it’s an eternity/if the life that we wanted’s not the love that we need,” he sings on the ballad that boasts shuffling guitar and plaintive piano, co-written with Jack Ingram and Allison Moorer. Indeed, Lovers and Leavers is about the search for love and security, but never quite finding it where you are looking — like the failure of a marriage that was supposed to provide lifelong companionship but resulting in a son that actually ended up fulfilling that void. Again, it’s about expectations, and how they rarely align with how we anticipate they might.
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When Lovers and Leavers is released on April 8th, it will have been five years since KMAG YOYO — an eternity in today’s musical climate where an artist is sometimes only as good as their last digital single or viral YouTube clip. But Carll is never rushed — not in his writing, nor his syllables that sometimes stick together in the most unusual of places and melt strangely across his notes. Lovers and Leavers is slow too, with, as Carll says, “very few hoots and almost no hollers.” It’s a softer, subtle album, but not a mournful one, because Carll’s beginnings and endings are a cycle, not a finite line.
Lovers and Leavers is set for release on April 8th via Thirty Tigers.