Adam Carroll –An Appreciation

Adam Carroll

Adam Carroll was in Tulsa a few days ago, along with his traveling companion Gordy Quist. The last time Adam was here we fed him gumbo, if memory serves. It was a pleasure to visit with him again, and, of course, a real treat to have him perform his songs and stories in an intimate house-concert setting. The music bed for his songs is pleasantly familiar, played on guitar and harmonica. He’s a very good harmonica player, by the way. He’s not a belt-it-out singer, but his storyteller’s voice conveys well the wry humor and yearning in his stories and sketches, set mostly in his native east Texas.

Adam is an unusually fine lyricist. You listen carefully because he takes you to unexpected places, often in the company of people familiar and strange at the same time. There’s the girl who drive a Karmann Ghia with the stereo torn out. There’s the Sno-Kone man and his desirable sister. There’s that sad, funny couple with the Red Bandanna blues.

And then there’s “you” (whoever you are):

I was thinking of you when the rice birds flew

When the false dawn came with the morning dew

You’re a thunderstorm raging outside my garage

You’re the white shirt peeking through my camouflage

From “Rice Birds” Copyright 2005, Adam Carroll

I’d bet you didn’t hear that last line coming. If you’re like me, you believe you know just what he meant, but in a way you can’t explain, even to yourself.

Adam seems to be a genuinely shy person. His endearingly inept attempts at between-song patter more often than not dissolve into non-sequiturs followed by “….well, anyway, here’s the song….” See the photo of him on the cover of his CD “Far Away Blues”, with his downcast eyes and shy smile and that’s what you see when he’s performing. It’s also what you see when he’s in the kitchen talking about the weather. There are five photos of Adam in that CD packaging, and only in the last one does he turn and look you in the eye (from a safe distance).

Before I got to know a lot of performers, I had naïvely assumed that they were all extroverts who naturally preferred to be the center of attention in a roomful of people. While that’s true for some, I’ve come to believe that, statistically, singers and musicians are no more or less extroverted than any other group of people. A surprising number of them are actually quite shy in conversation, and getting up on stage under a spotlight to face a crowd of strangers is difficult, dangerous work for them. Yet they do it, time and again. Why?

Maybe it’s because performing a set of songs is a highly structured arrangement between the performer and everyone else in the room, which makes it actually less intimidating than unpredictable, freeform encounters. A shy performer can take a lot of comfort in the fact that they have to memorize the entire evening beforehand, and then play it out, to applause and laughter, just like last night. Difficulties notwithstanding, Adam finds the spotlight and tells us original stories in rhythm and rhyme, and we’re glad. –Rich

Explore posts in the same categories: Indie Music, Texas music

3 Comments on “Adam Carroll –An Appreciation”

  1. jacob Says:

    adam carroll is tight. i wish he was better known. or at least more widely known.

  2. Warner DeFord Says:

    Adam was the opening act for Steven Fromholtz at Jitters in Palestine Texas in 1997 when I had the good fortune to see him perform. Your description of his shy nature is exactly the way I remember him. I went outside for a smoke during one of Stevens breaks and Adam was outside also. He was so in awe of Fromholtz that he was wondering out loud if he could ever be as good. That kid didn’t have a clue as to how good he already was. It’s nice to know that some people aren’t changed by their

  3. Brett Says:

    “Rice Birds” rates among the gloriously beautiful songs I’ve ever heard (right up there with “Mr. Erroll’s Song,” and that’s saying something). He’s one teh few singer-songwriters to come along who truly rates fair comparison to Townes, and it’s a true shame that more folks don’t know about Carroll.

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