Music Review: Carrie Ann Carroll’s ‘You Should Know’

“Honeymoon,” from newcomer Carrie Ann Carroll, ranks with the strongest singles I’ve heard in some time. The addictive hook and jangly guitars certainly help but what most makes this number click are Carroll’s intimate vocals and the confessional lyrics, which demonstrate her ability to transform little details from real life into compelling vignettes.

The song—which opens You Should Know, her first full-length CD—is rooted in folk but has a strong pop sensibility. And as it turns out, it tells a true story. As her website explains, she didn’t get the wedding trip she’d planned on when she married Joe Carroll (who produced this collection). Instead, his sister asked to come live with the couple, as she was battling cancer and could no longer take care of herself. So Carrie and Joe flew to California from their home in Austin, rented an RV and U-Haul trailer, and drove back to Texas with his sister and all her possessions.

The song finds Carrie behind the wheel of the RV as her husband dozes beside her: “I turn and watch you sleep, I try not to cry / Your sister’s in the back, fighting to stay alive / I wish I could fix it, all I can do is drive.” And she concludes: “This may not be what we planned and it sure ain’t no tropical breeze / But it’s me and it’s you, our honeymoon.” The song sounds heartfelt and confessional and reminds me a bit of another great driving-with-husband track, Lucy Kaplansky’s “Ten Year Night.”

While “Honeymoon” is my favorite tune here, it’s far from the only winner in this collection, which features backup from such veteran Austin musicians as Redd Volkaert and Will Sexton. A cover of Sonny Bono’s “A Cowboy’s Work Is Never Done” seems a bit out of place to me but the rest of the program consists of Carroll originals, most of which have me coming back for more.

Throughout, she avoids clichés as she sings of lust, betrayal, love, and disappointment. Some of the tales here may well have sprung from her imagination, but Carroll’s lyrics and vocals will make you feel as if you’ve peeked into her real-life diary. I’m already looking forward to the next batch of entries.

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