TERRE HAUTE —
Nashville music aficionados know Tim Carroll as the crafty guitarist and songwriter performing alongside his wife, critically-acclaimed Americana country singer Elizabeth Cook.
His own gritty, unique musical roots as a punk rocker from western Vigo County remain intact, though. With clever lyrics and a blunt, yet skilled garage-band delivery, Carroll’s latest solo album shows him in peak form. “Look Out!” offers fair warning to anyone expecting a slice of the more recognized Music City fare from contemporary country radio.
“Look Out!” is pure rock ’n’ roll, with no varnish or genre detours.
With three decades of experience, Carroll sums up his current, mid-life station in that style of sound and looks back. His road is long, winding from his days in West Terre Haute to his role with Indiana’s pioneering punk band, the Gizmos, to leading the New York-based alt-country-rock group the Blue Chieftans, to his move to Tennessee.
Fittingly, the album’s central track is “That’s Rock ’n’ Roll.” On it, Carroll sings, “All I ever wanted was to play guitar, never really cared if I became a star, everybody says I’m close but no cigar; that’s rock ’n’ roll.” Fame may have dodged Carroll, so far, but talents do not go unnoticed. Along with his contributions to Elizabeth’s work, which earns raves from critics ranging from the New York Times to NPR, Carroll’s own compositions also have been recorded by various artists such as John Prine and Asleep at the Wheel. His songs made the soundtracks to popular films, such as “Election” and “Drop Dead Gorgeous.”
That said, Carroll keeps it real. If “Look Out!” has a theme, it’s perseverance tempered by humility. On “That’s Rock ’n’ Roll,” he declares, “My friends said they were gonna make it to my gig; they’ll claim that they were there when I make it big.”
Those no-shows obviously missed the fun. The album, Carroll’s ninth, displays his ability to carve art out of minimalist rock, in much the same vein as Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Carroll handles all the guitar work — electric, acoustic and bass — while backed by keyboardist Tim Atwood, percussionist Marco Giovino (who tours with Robert Plant), drummer Rick Shell, and the sweet support vocals of Carroll’s wife, Elizabeth.
Together, they shine brightest on the title track, Carroll’s stream-of-consciousness talking blues; the primal “When I Have You;” and the rugged opening number, “Time Has Come.”
With all of the assessment going on, Carroll pays attention to spiritual thoughts, too. Over Atwood’s retro organ sounds and Carroll’s own buzzing guitar, Carroll reminds us that, “whether you’re fightin’ or you’re peas in a pod, flush with cash or just blown a wad, it’s a great time to talk to God.” Later, on Track 9, he follows up with similar advice, sonically layered with psychedelic hints of Procol Harum and Pink Floyd. On “Not the End,” Carroll croons, “If your soul is lost, or you’re double-crossed, this is not the end, just another bend.”
Humbled, yet persevering. “Look Out!” proves Tim Carroll has a lot more to say, and a lot more play.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.