barton Carroll
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barton Carroll

Seattle, Washington, United States | INDIE

Seattle, Washington, United States | INDIE
Band Folk


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"Pitchfork for The Lost One"

7 out of 10
Barton Carroll writes like a troubled man. The songs on The Lost One, his second album on Birmingham-based Skybucket Records, are all about downtrodden men nursing dark thoughts like whiskey, ruminating over marriages, sex, children, jobs, friends, life. "Hair's fallin' out and my back's got a pain," he sings on opener "Pretty Girl's Going to Ruin My Life (Again)" (that parenthetical aside stings like a punchline). "I've been drinking my scotch in my truck in the rain/ I think it's a fine way to spend the day." Like Freedy Johnston, to whom he bears more than a passing resemblance, Carroll writes in character, filling his songs with the kind of everyday people you might pass on the street, with no bigger story than the gradual onset of disappointment and regret.

On the elegantly epistolary "Those Days Are Gone, and My Heart Is Breaking", which could be a male response to Michelle Shocked's "Anchorage", a man writes a letter to an old friend, catching up on the "years between us," including a failed marriage, an estranged son, and a series of go-nowhere jobs. "I guess the damage is done," he sings, "and there's no way I can fake it." Like most of The Lost One, the song works because Carroll never inflates his characters' circumstances beyond the mundane and possibly hopeless.
"There's a mean streak in me," Carroll sings on "Those Days Are Gone", but as dark as these songs may be, Carroll himself sounds like a nice, good-humored guy, maybe someone you'd like to have a beer with. He has a high-pitched voice that recalls Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and he enunciates perfectly with no trace of an accent (the North Carolina native moved to the Pacific Northwest years ago). As such, he doesn't inhabit these characters, but he certainly identifies with their predicaments and their working-class roots. On "Brooklyn Girl, You're Going to Be My Bride", the album's funniest track, he comes off like a good-hearted blue-collar suitor trailing a pretty Vampire Weekend fan: "I know she's drowning in boys and a lot of hipster noise," he sings.

When Carroll missteps, the cracks become particularly noticeable, as on "Laurie, Don't Go", which relies on lyrical clichés to force a clunky rhyme scheme: "Don't take my boy," Carroll sings. "What is this ploy? He's my only joy." Carroll claims "Small Thing", which appeared on his 2006 album Love & War, is about the Soviet occupation of Berlin, but history makes the song sound completely out of proportion with the rest of this studiously life-size album.

Ultimately, the mean streak in his lyrics and the softness of his voice aren't as irreconcilable as you might think. For the most part, he sells these characters as people he's had beers with-- an impression bolstered by his modest, but by no means mild-mannered folk-rock sound. Carroll, who has played with Crooked Fingers, Azure Ray, Dolorean, and Micah P. Hinson, bases all the songs on acoustic guitar, but rustles up harmonica, organ, and trumpet when the mood hits and makes the most of his full band on the organ-heavy "Ramona" and the stomping "Dark Place". An ominous slide guitar offsets his falsetto vocals on "Burning Red and Blue", and a rickety trap set on the traditional folk song "Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still" sounds like the creaking boards of an empty house, as if the owner of that bright smile were literally a ghost. Putting his songwriting at the forefront, the straightforwardness of the arrangements make his character sketches sound believably plainspoken instead of clever. The Lost One is a fine way to spend 42 minutes, and probably best served with scotch.

-Stephen M. Deusner, February 06, 2008 - Pitchfork

"Harp Magazine"

With his second album, Barton Carroll is doing everything just right. His debut had promise and slow burning power, and now The Lost One knocks it out of the park. The remarkable “Small Things,” which was the centerpiece of the earlier Love & War, has been rerecorded here—the same arrangement, it’s given greater clarity and has such alluring potency that Carroll could probably get away with always including it on his releases. The supple band arrangements add lilt and sway, ominous dirge meters, and true punch when needed. “Superman” starts with just Carroll and his guitar, but by the song’s end three minutes later a band has coalesced, lifting him aloft—Superman indeed! Even a simple front porch groove, “Brace Yourself,” yields rewards on every front. Each of the 12 tracks has such a natural bearing that their contemporary vintage seems to rearrange decades at will. How could these songs not have always been here?

By David Greenberger - Harp

"No Depression"

"....a dramatic statement of purpose; a thoughtful and inventive work that should appeal to those who often find themselves at the crossroads of the personal and the political."
~ No Depression - No Depression

"Vintage Guitar"

“Carroll consistently comes up with attention-getting lyrics. Strong on words and strong on music… sounds like Phil Ochs wandered into a Van Morrison session." - Vintage Guitar

"The Stranger (Seattle)"

Even if the name isn't instantly recognizable, fans of Eric Bachmann have probably witnessed Barton Carroll's contributions to Bachmann's Crooked Fingers on stand-up bass, lap-steel guitar, and periodic backing vocals. The two forged a friendship over a mutual love of Bruce Springsteen while Carroll was working as Archers of Loaf's merchandise manager and have been collaborating whenever possible ever since then. Carroll is long overdue for recognition of his own talents as a singer and a songwriter. He's hyperintelligent and hyperliterate, but his hushed and naked delivery of dour, country-tinged yarns is infinitely accessible and down to earth. Fans of Cormac McCarthy, take note."
~The Stranger-Seattle, WA. - The Stranger


7 out of 10

Barton Carroll has a gentle, scratchy voice, a fluidly pretty way with the six-string, and a bouncy sense of melody that makes most of these 12 songs slip by in an haze. And yet, at the heart of these tracks there’s a deep, frightening well of darkness. I’m hoping that Carroll’s more of a storyteller than a confessionalist, because if he is actually the “I” in these tracks, he kind of scares me. Consider “Pretty Girl’s Going to Ruin My Life (Again)”, a pretty little love song, except that the narrator is sitting out in his truck in the rain, swilling down whiskey. “What do you say to a love that’s true?” Carroll croons. Erm, how about, “911, that stalker is back in my driveway getting loaded again?”

By far the scariest, and in its way most stunning of these tracks, is “Burning Red and Blue”, built on a circling 12/8 blues riff that’ll put you in mind of “House of the Rising Sun”. There’s a menace in the verse, as the narrating character insinuates “I’ll be out back / In my blue jeans / And my gun” to a woman who is clearly not entirely free to make her own choices. It’s masterfully done, though, the whine of steel guitar, the deep baritone mutterings, the half-sketched portrait of destructive love.

There’s not much to laugh about in “Burning Red and Blue”, but elsewhere Carroll has a very fine, sly sense of humor. In “Brooklyn Girl, You’re Going to Be My Bride”, there’s a jaunty jangle to his spiel about a girl who’s “Drowning in boys / And a lot of hipster noise”. The narrator is blissfully unaware that he hasn’t got a chance in hell with this girl. It’s not just that he’s homely and none-too-smart and competing with a trust-fund-artist boyfriend, his shirt’s inside out. And yet he recognizes no obstacles. “With that menacing smile / I’m going to walk you down the aisle / Brooklyn girl, you’re going to be my bride”. Uh huh, right.

You might catch a whiff of misogyny here. Yet once, in “Small Thing”, Carroll does a fairly insightful gender switch, singing from the perspective of a woman who survived the Russian invasion of Berlin. It’s a chilling song, with lyrics like “I was broken in / By broken men / With draining eyes” and “I lay on my back with all my might”, its darkness at odds with the cascading purity of the guitar work that accompanies it.

For relief, there are relatively straightforward love songs like “Laurie, Don’t Go” and the happily rocking “Ramona”. (Though even in this, the happiest of songs on the disc, there is a knife in play and a guy who wants to “lay down and die” due to rejection.) Still, it’s the psycho songs that stay with you, their crazy intensity in conflict with Carroll’s laid back delivery. If he’s a storyteller, Carroll is astoundingly adept at taking you into twisted minds and outré scenarios. If he’s a first-person guy, though, watch out. You don’t want this songwriter setting up camp in your driveway. - Popmatters

"1st of top 10, 2008-American Songwriter"

"The Lost One" Best Album of 2008 by Editor at Large at American Songwriter.

American Songwriter for "Together You And I"-"

Barton Carroll crafts hardscrabble folk music populated with emotionally haunted souls. In a plaintive voice recalling Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Freedy Johnston, Carroll sings about world-worn characters struggling to survive but not surrendering...Carroll’s sharp-eyed, unflinching story-songs serve to separate him from the troubadour pack." American Songwriter - American Songwriter

"top 10 2008"

In top 10 by Peter Blackstock, co-editor of No Depression - No Depression

"album of the year"

2 writers at HybridMagazine, David Devoe and Embo Blake choose Carroll's "The Lost One" as album of the year for 2008. - HybridMagazine

"Pitchfork for Together You And I"

7.4 out of 10
“No one ever finishes their beer on Together You and I, and it's to his considerable credit that Carroll makes clear that many of these denizens come to regret leaving that glass half emptied." - Pitchfork Media


"Barton Carroll" LP 1999, "Love & War"-LP 2006, "The Lost One"-LP 2008. Airplay on several stations including KEXP (Seattle), Oregon Public Radio, WNCW (Spindale, NC)



Since 2002, Barton Carroll has toured and recorded extensively with Crooked Fingers and Eric Bachmann, playing guitar, steel guitar, and upright bass. Carroll has also toured, playing various instruments with Azure Ray, Dolorean, and Micah P. Hinson.

In 2006 Carroll released his second solo effort, “Love and War,” on Skybucket Records. “Love and War” received much critical acclaim in music journals such as Harp, No Depression, The Big Takeover, and many others.

Paste Magazine also included a track from “Love and War” on their November, 2006 CD sampler.

Carroll's latest album, "The Lost One," was released on Skybucket records in January of 2008. The title was stolen from one of the classic films of the Noir canon, a genre that Carroll is hooked on. Like the film, the songs tell stories of souls who, burdened by their past, fear they will not be redeemed. Carroll’s sardonic and self effacing wit is evident.

Musically, the record is a mixture of the mountain music that Carroll grew up hearing in Western North Carolina, and the sweet, sad, melodic sensibility of Alex Chilton. Carroll has a sincere, durable voice well suited for storytelling and folk songs.

“The Lost One” was produced by Martin Feveyear, who engineered and produced the 2005 Crooked Fingers release, “Dignity and Shame.” Feveyear is a veteran producer and engineer, having worked with such artists as Mark Lanegan, Damien Jurado, and John Wesley Harding.