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Adam Carroll

I Walked in Them Shoes – 2019 (Down Hole)

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

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CDs by Adam Carroll

This is esteemed Texas singer-songwriter Adam Carroll's ninth release and the first since 2016's all -star "Highway Prayer: A Tribute to Adam Carroll." Albums don't get much sparer or intimate with Carroll and producer Lloyd Maines both playing multiple instruments, playing every note without the benefit of a rhythm section or guests, all cut in one day. Along the way, he nods to the Flying Burrito Brothers, his wife, mentor Maines and the late Kent Finlay, proprietor of the San Marcos, Texas songwriter's den, Cheatham Street Warehouse.

Carroll's fellow songwriters, as attested to by that 2016 tribute album, hold him in the highest regard, some comparing him to masters like Prine, Van Zandt and Clark. While not going that far, Carroll undoubtedly has a gift for character sketches, vivid images, economy for words and succinct story songs. His songs can be personal and universal at the same time. For example, the title track began as a song envisioning the Flying Burrito Brothers as "guys about our age" and what it would have been like to be in their situation. It could just easily be about any band or artist who's walked the "long walk."

"Crescent City Angels" has Carroll playing harmonica on a tune inspired by Cajun country and the Gulf Coast, but not sounding the least bit Cajun. "This Old Garage" has humorous lines comparing himself to John Sebastian, Richie Havens and Willie Nelson as he's trying to write a song. "Cordella" is an ode to his wife, inspired by the book "Entering the Heart of the Buddha" by the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat, in which, with Maines' coaxing, Carroll plays harmonium for the first time.

Two of the strongest tracks are "My Only Good Shirt," a witty insightful look into Maines' personality, and the sincerely felt poignant character sketch of Finlay in "Night at the Show." Finlay was such a believer in Carroll that he came out of retirement just to give the songwriter a regular venue where he could hone his chops. That gesture proved rather visionary.