Nine Mile Records
A Country Carousel Worth Loads of Spins.
“Carson McHone’s album Carousel is mostly electric barroom windups with a few satisfying ballads thrown in for twangy effectiveness.” So says the accompanying Press Release; but is that the case?
McHone hails from Austin, Texas where she cut her teeth with regular weekly engagements in the local honky-tonks. McHone rocks out effortlessly on many of these tunes and has just enough twang in her voice to keep it “real-life country for real.” The album’s kick-off song, “Sad,” is a twangy barroom jaunt and a good introduction for what’s to come. “Lucky” shifts gears emotionally to keep it surprising and interesting. “Good Time Daddy Blues” is well sung, but the production is a bit ‘paint by the numbers’ with too much generic yeehaw going on for my taste. (Now, perhaps that’s the point, McHone could be going for a classic feel on the barroom staple songs. Some of these songs do have a purposeful classic country vibe, but this one’s a bit too pat for my tastes. One needn’t have the fiddle and the pedal steel both share the solo section. Yes, classic country used to do this a lot, and it’s still done a lot, which is kind of my point.) Instead, give it over fully to one instrument and let them shine, give the player a chance to dig into it a bit and make a complete emotional statement.
Which makes “Spider Song” with its droning harmonium probably my favorite cut on this album, followed closely by “Dram Shop Girl” which comes off tender, but with a touch of darkness reminiscent of Townes Van Zandt. Both of these tunes have an innocence to them rather than naïveté that makes them work, as well as being forward thinking in their arrangements. “Drugs” with its plaintive repeating chorus: “Drugs, I need drugs, I need drugs,” is catchy and strong, and I find myself coming back to listen to it again and again, and “Gentle” is whispery and resolute in its emotional impact. These songs definitely are worth listening to over and over, as Carousel definitely gets better with each spin.
I like McHone’s voice and songs, and her band is obviously talented, but I feel this album represents a transition in McHone’s learning curve. She’s reaching for something with her art and I hope she gets there, as we will all be the better for it.
Review by the Legendary Roy Peak
Released 26th October 2018