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Barton Carroll
The Lost One
Skybucket Records
www.bartoncarroll.com


In the absence of any new, easily available (for us Americans) music from dark country troubadour Michael J. Sheehy for the past couple of years, the faithful have begun to look elsewhere for their fix. Barton Carroll has emerged as a suitable successor to Sheehy's throne. On his new record The Lost One, Carroll doubles up the darkness with a fine dose of traditional folk, moving the dark country sound from the dirt and mire of Sheehy to his own fine folky musings. His songs are filled with the same kind of somber poetry and brilliant lyricism as Sheehy, but wander a bit more from love songs (without the twisted soul) to stories of wartime loss and wonder.

Barton Carroll is a member of indie alt.country stalwarts Crooked Fingers, as well as a member of Saddle Creek's Eric Bachman's backing band. His talents on guitar are more than obvious on The Lost One, but as amazing and dynamic as his guitar playing is, the real strength of the music lies in the lyrics. The enigmatically straightforward prose of "Pretty Girl's Going To Ruin My Life (Again)" not only begins the album, but also sets the precedent for the fine poetry that is to come. "I was lost when you were found/ You live in the sky I live on the ground/ Pretty girl's gonna ruin my life again/ Let me know what you want me to sing/ for thatlook in your eyes I'll play anything…" On the second track "Superman", Carroll launches into a Frank Black semi-country vibe(minus the Beach Boys influence), only doing so with an acoustic guitar and a stomping rhythm that is accentuated finely with some amazing fiddle playing, courtesy of Paul Elliott. On "Burning Red And Blue", Carroll totally channels Sheehy, taking the slow electric guitar and dark lyrics to their extreme place of introspection before launching into a falsetto at once angelic and slightly disturbing. By the time the story of "Those Days Are Gone, And My Heart Is Breaking" begins, it becomes patently obvious that Carroll has a different approach than his contemporaries in the alt. country scene. While most folks are either struggling with something, creating tension in their music, and others are relying on more traditional methods and sounds to form their music, Carroll somehow makes it seem effortless… the beauty of his songs leaves a feeling of easiness that can be most readily likened to the songs of Paul Simon. "Those Days Are Gone, And My Heart Is Breaking" is a strong song and tells a vivid and compelling story of a young man's life, including a classic rise to something that wasn't something and a falling from grace that leaves room only for love and retrospection. "I met a girl and I swept her off her feet/ made her promises I never meant to keep/ There's a mean streak in me/ Inside a storm was raging/ She had a form like no other girl in town/ We had a baby boy but I couldn't stick around/ I couldn't be tied down that's just the way I was thinking/ Those days are gone and my heart is aching." The lilting tale is accompanied simply by acoustic guitar, recorded beautifully, that resonates extremely deeply, adding a somber touch to a deeply somber song.

There are songs that blast a bit more rock and roll into the mix, including the great "Brooklyn Girl, You're Going To Be My Bride," a song that sings the praises of a girl while lightly stealing melody lines from Cornershop. "Small Thing" tells the story of a surviving woman from World War II, and somehow Carroll has imbued the song with a perception and awareness that is simply amazing. While Carroll writes love songs rather well, when he adopts the first person and tells a story, his writing really shines remarkably. There are times of intense lyrical brilliance sprinkled throughout The Lost One, easily relatable to many English language poets from the classic and modern eras, but perhaps nowhere does Carroll's poetry reflect that of Sheehy more than on the ambling and beautifully peaceful "Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still" that brings the album to its close. This song has an intensity and fineness of character that has hardly been displayed by anyone creating music in the past few years.

Whether you are an acolyte of Michael J Sheehy's fine dark country, or know little of alt.country and its scene, there is a universal appeal and brilliance about the songs of Barton Carroll to warrant taking some time to digest The Lost One in its entirety. This is excellent Americana without a hint of twang, but so much soul and depth that it needs to be heard. Give your soul the dark light that it craves and give The Lost One a listen.

-David DeVoe


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