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Highway Prayer: A Tribute to Adam Carroll:

For immediate release

August 30, 2016



‘Diverse group united by a shared appreciation of a talented writer’ (Rolling Stone) features James McMurtry, Hayes Carll, Slaid Cleaves, The Band of Heathens

AUSTIN, TX – Highway Prayer: A Tribute to Adam Carroll, due October 28 on Austin-based Eight 30 Records and produced by label owners Jenni Finlay and Brian T. Atkinson,  celebrates a true songwriter’s songwriter, a Texas tunesmith who has inspired both younger and older artists for nearly two decades. Carroll simply captures entire lifetimes among stilled snapshots like few others (“Screen Door,” “Girl with the Dirty Hair”). “I try to find moments that are sublime,” Carroll explains. “They just last a little bit and then you’re back to your regular life and strife, but there are just these perfect little moments.” Evidence: “Black Flag Blues,” “Red Bandana Blues,” “South of Town,” dozens more.

Carroll sketches characters with a novelist’s eye (“Errol’s Song”) and a poet’s elegance (“Hi-Fi Love”) as his vivid vignettes frequently turn personal into universal within seconds (“Highway Prayer”). Consider “Rain.” “I’m feeling like a bird dragging through the storm/Feeling like a scarecrow standing in the corn,” the down and defeated narrator declares. “Sometimes you can’t get through, sometimes it just takes two/Sometimes two adds up to nothing.” Such sideways glances define his literate landscapes. “Long compared to the likes of John Prine and Townes Van Zandt,” the Austin Chronicle once raved, “Adam Carroll proves he’s beyond compare.”

James McMurtry draws the closest line. “Adam Carroll is like a very young Kris Kristofferson. He writes about things that are older than me,” the iconic tunesmith says. “You get a bunch of guys who more people have heard of to sing someone’s songs, it maybe makes their stock go up, which is fine by me.” Early press strongly hints that will be the case. “It speaks volumes that McMurtry and Hayes Carll and many more all contribute to (this) new homage to Adam Carroll,” Rolling Stone enthuses. “It’s a diverse group united by a shared appreciation of a writer who may be only 42, but who, as McMurtry suggests, is talented beyond his years.”

Admittedly, eyebrows raised throughout the Lone Star state and beyond as news spread about this tribute record. After all, as the legendary music magazine notes, the Central Texas-based songwriter has notched only forty-two trips around the sun, a young man by any measure. No matter. Carroll’s deeply observant stories simply deserve wider attention beyond his reverent peers. “Adam’s a songwriter’s songwriter, a unique voice who’s important to a lot of songwriters,” longtime fan Hayes Carll says. “A lot of people are influenced by him. That’s the measure of if you deserve a tribute record: Are there people you have influenced who will come and do it? That’s undoubtably so with Adam.”

Clearly. Scan the others who jumped the notion was mentioned: Slaid Cleaves. Terri Hendrix. Verlon Thompson. Walt Wilkins. The Band of Heathens. Only songs with the most depth and weight turn those heads. “Adam has so many great songs,” Cleaves says. “There are only a couple of writers who consistently catch my ear and remind me of the subtle joy that great songs can bring. It’s artisanal songwriting. Never gonna be sold at Walmart, but it’ll remind the fortunate few that great songwriting can connect you to your neighbors, your fellow humans, even your own jaded heart.”

Tim Easton doubles down. “Adam Carroll is East Texas’ own Shakespeare of song,” the East Nashville resident says. “Listen and learn, people. Listen for the details that make us human. Learn how to write about a culture that you are fascinated with. Find the details in behavior that make us all sympathize. His songs belong in Texan and Bayou anthropology courses, but mostly they should belong to your car stereo speakers.”

Other titles on Eight 30 Records include Cold and Bitter Tears: The Songs of Ted Hawkins, Dreamer: A Tribute to Kent Finlay and Danny Barnes’ Got Myself Together (Ten Years Later). See below for full track listing on Highway Prayer: A Tribute to Adam Carroll.


Screen Door” • James McMurtry

Girl with the Dirty Hair” • Hayes Carll

South of Town” • Slaid Cleaves

Oklahoma Gypsy Shuffler” • The Band of Heathens

Hi-Fi Love” • Jamie Lin Wilson

Lil’ Runaway” • Verlon Thompson

Rain • Scott Nolan

Old Town Rock N Roll” • Matt the Electrician

Black Flag Blues” • Tim Easton and Aaron Lee Tasjan

Smoky Mountain Taxi” • Danny Barnes

Errol’s Song” • Jason Eady

Red Bandana Blues” • Terri Hendrix

Karaoke Cowboy” • Noel McKay and Brennen Leigh

Home Again” • Mando Saenz

Highway Prayer” • Walt Wilkins

Bonus track: “My Only Good Shirt” • Adam Carroll

dreamer cover

The compilation CD, Dreamer: A Tribute to Kent Finlay features the songs of Kent Finlay recorded by James McMurtry, Randy Rogers and Sunny Sweeney, Steve Poltz, Jamie Wilson and more!)

Kent Finlay’s skyrocketed aspiring artists for four decades now. You know the names: George Strait. Stevie Ray Vaughan. Todd Snider. James McMurtry. Eric Johnson. The list literally goes on forever. Each songwriter’s an unmatched talent with one common thread: Finlay launched their careers from the stage at his legendary Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos, Texas. Finlay’s simply the most respected lyrical editor and talent scouter in Texas – not to mention a singular songwriter himself.
“Songwriter. Mentor. Curator. Teacher. Historian,” longtime acolyte Owen Temple says. “Kent Finlay has helped create the best of what Texas music has been and is.” “Kent Finlay’s a guru, a Yoda,” says legendary songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard. “He has an incredible sense of craft and the right inspiration for why he does it. For him, it’s not about what he can get. It’s about what he can give, what he can contribute to the music.”

Kent Finlay: Dreamer tells his story. You’ll find the best of both worlds: Jenni Finlay’s intimate interviews with her father about his entire life. Brian T. Atkinson’s detailed conversations with songwriters about his astounding influence. No stone remains unturned. Look for the book next year, a captivating tale telling the story of arguably the most influential mentor, songwriter and venue owner in Texas music history.


Danny Barnes’ first collection in six years showcases a singular songwriter and player in peak form as Got Myself Together (Ten Years Later) reworks his classic album a decade on (“Big Girl Blues,” “Get Me Out of Jail”). The Seattle-area resident simply strips songs to their essence on the new recording. “I spend a lot of time developing new contexts like the barnyard electronics aesthetic,” Barnes says. “Get Myself Together was my last acoustic-type recording and I get quite a bit of fan mail about it, but the label that released it went out of business. I wanted to make something with this record that featured more of my raw acoustic sound, as though I was kind of playing in your living room.”

Folks notice Got Myself Together (Ten Years Later), releasing November 27 on Eight 30 Records, delivering Barnes trademark story songs and impeccable banjo picking over and again on the album (“Rat’s Ass,” “Cut a Rug”). “Danny Barnes’ musical horizon is vast and elegant,” says legendary Texas songsmith Robert Earl Keen, who frequently enlists Barnes as banjoist in his touring band. “I’ve said many times that he is the world’s greatest banjo player. Danny’s singing swoops and soars by still waters and down rocky paths.” “It is heaven and earth,” says superstar Dave Matthews, who also frequently calls Barnes to bat in his live show. “It is Americana from the back porch to the pulpit.”

Longtime fans immediately will recognize Barnes’ quirky lyrics and unimpeachable banjo style jumping toward the fore with little distraction on the new record. “I had to come up with a different scene for each song,” Barnes says. “The original context for these songs was as though I had made a movie and everything was all committed to celluloid. However, with music you tend to shape things as you play them live. The routine: You write something, you record it, then you go play it for ten years on the road. So, in returning to the music, I had a different perspective. It’s more like a dramatic work in that the company that performs it and the venue it’s performed in necessarily changes the meaning.

Icing on the cake: The Temple, Texas native – and this year’s Steve Martin Excellence in Bluegrass and Banjo winner – offers a buoyant bonus track rerecording of his former band the Bad Livers’ high watermark “I’m Convicted.” The song’s equally rambunctious and robust. “Danny Barnes doesn’t sound like anyone else,” says iconic instrumentalist Bill Frisell, whose “Big Shoe” closes out the album proper. “I was knocked out when I first heard him play and continue to be.” “I enjoy these songs and I think they are ‘real songs,’ if that makes any sense,” Barnes concludes. “They can be strummed on a one-string instrument and they still make sense and tell the story. They don’t depend on effects or processing. I think they are worth a busy person taking time to jam on them.”

Hawkins Cover

Cold and Bitter Tears: The Songs of Ted Hawkins, due October 23, 2015 on Austin-based Eight 30 Records, marks the first tribute album to the soulful Venice Beach street performer, a legend overseas later in his lifetime but a songwriter largely overlooked in the States. Hawkins simply sang like songs were stamped on his heart at birth. Evidence: High watermarks on the new record such as “Big Things” (James McMurtry), “Cold and Bitter Tears” (Kasey Chambers), “Sorry You’re Sick” (Mary Gauthier), “Who Got My Natural Comb” (Shinyribs) and several other classics. Hawkins himself backs the point with the album’s hidden track, the moving unreleased demo “Great New Year.”

The Mississippi native, who died January 1, 1995 after a hardscrabble life and brief autumnal rise in popularity, might be gone but he’s clearly not forgotten. Americana power trio including singer-songwriter Kevin Russell(Shinyribs, The Gourds), artist manager Jenni Finlay (James McMurtry) and writer Brian T. Atkinson (author of I’ll Be Here in the Morning: The Songwriting Legacy of Townes Van Zandt) have lovingly co-produced Cold and Bitter Tears over the past year with sessions mostly at Austin’s Wire Recording.

Russell has been particularly enthusiastic about the endeavor. “Ted Hawkins’ songs and his voice were infectiously uplifting to me upon first listen twenty years ago,” he says. “His unique style, both soulful and folkie, has haunted me and taught me — so much that I have been on a personal mission to tell the world about this national musical treasure. The opportunity to steward this tribute record is a ‘go tell it on the mountain’ moment for me that I hope can bring greater attention to the songs and recordings of Mr. Hawkins himself.”

Hawkins earned a following as a longtime busker on the Venice Beach boardwalk but his unpredictable lifestyle prevented widespread notice. He made minor critical waves with his debut Watch Your Step (1982), an album that failed commercially but earned a five-star review in Rolling Stone. Hawkins scarcely recorded between Watch Your Step and his major label debut The Next Hundred Years (1994).

Boardwalk passersby always noticed the singular singer belting his songs. They stopped cold. Listened. Amazed. “A lot of street musicians are really good, but there was something about him that was just pure presence,” saysJon Dee Graham, who witnessed Hawkins on the beachfront while recording in Los Angeles three decades ago. “Also, his songs aren’t like anybody else’s. He’s singing in this huge, soulful voice, ‘What do you want from the liquor store? Something sweet? Something sour?’ What? So wholly original.” Imagine blues and country and folk having no dividing lines.

He died at 58 years old the following New Year’s Day as his star finally threatened to rise. “At the time of his death, Hawkins remained the greatest singer you’ve never heard,” the Los Angeles Times obituary read. “Hawkins clearly was transported somewhere else as he sang, and when he became aware of the audience, he seemed dazed: [Everyone] applauding wildly, some in tears from the sheer, sad beauty of his songs.” “When somebody plays in a way you’ve never heard anybody else play, that’s singularity,” echoes Dave Marsh, the iconic author and rock critic. “You might be able to imitate it, but you couldn’t copy it. It would be like trying to sing like Ray Charles. You can’t do that.”