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Texas troubadour

Open-mic nights across America are surely littered with the debris of mediocre young songwriters who idolize John Prine, Guy Clark, and Townes Van Zandt. Few experiences in life are more painful than watching an earnest guy with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica, vainly trying to match the wordplay of these master craftsmen.

Adam Carroll

With that in mind, San Marcos troubadour Adam Carroll is a rare bird: a Prine/Clark/Van Zandt disciple who's also found his own eloquent voice and continued to grow with each release. His third studio album, the newly released Far Away Blues, is a near-perfect example of Carroll's knack for wry social observation and deceptively casual accounts of shattering heartbreak.

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Adam Carroll
Gordy Quist

Fri, June 10

1719 Blanco Rd.
His command of metaphor is best demonstrated on the finger-picking lament "Rice Birds," in which he describes an absent lover this way: "You're a thunderstorm raging outside my garage/You're the white shirt peeking through my camouflage." With the rollicking "AFL-CIO," he paints a vivid picture of a union-hall hoedown, including Lester the old guitar picker with a pacemaker, and a woman from Ohio who "talks like a Yankee, but we treat her just the same."

None of Carroll's storytelling skill would mean much if the music weren't so vibrant. Produced by Texas country legend Lloyd Maines, Far Away Blues employs acoustic guitars, mandolins, fiddles, and a Hammond B3 organ to create a sense of group interplay and rhythmic drive, without ever deflecting attention from Carroll's loopy, down-home twang.

Carroll celebrates the release of Far Away Blues with a June 10 show at Casbeers, a must-see opportunity to catch a premier singer-songwriter at the top of his game. If he keeps this up, it won't be long before open-mic participants start emulating him.

By Gilbert Garcia

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