Carson McHone started playing the local bars in her hometown of Austin, Texas aged sixteen, paying her dues and getting an education in honky tonk and heartbreak. Her 2018 album ‘Carousel’ has now been rereleased on British label Loose, who have a pedigree for picking out talent like Sturgill Simpson and Courtney Marie Andrews. Combining the feel of traditional country with a distinctive voice and sharp eye for storytelling, Carson McHone looks like another stellar signing.
The album begins by addressing depression – ‘Sad’ is not just a feeling but something that exists inside of her with a power of its own. The song starts with a woozy waltz and then kicks into something else entirely, showing McHone doesn’t let tradition tie her down. Her voice is low, the tone wistful and utterly charming.
I have to admit that the song ‘Drugs’, with its repeatedly desperate refrain of ‘I need drugs’, is not a song I thought I would enjoy but when I actually paid attention to the words I realised it was a nuanced take on addiction and relationships. And McHone isn’t afraid to slowdown a song or experiment and that unique quality really makes this album an interesting listen.
Ain’t it lucky that I like being lonely, she sings on Lucky, her wry vocal delivery absolutely on point. Some of these songs are re-recorded versions from her debut album – the new versions are more loose and sparse. The country shuffle of ‘Good Time Daddy Blues’ tells the story of a casual relationship.
‘Dram Shop Gal’ is an ache of a song, stripped back to its raw core. On Gentle she’s on the bar stool, listening to the jukebox, dreaming of second chances. How Bout It sounds like it’s been played on a busted piano in the corner of said same bar, a moment of bruised tenderness and hope.
Maybe They’re Just Really Good Friends is a classic country cheating song, and you can tell she is enjoying letting loose. In contrast Goodluck Man is softer in tone and leads into the contemplative closer Spider Song where she realises ‘this melody I sing, holds more promise than a ring’. Ain’t that the truth.
Carousel is a cool and confident sounding record. If, like me, you missed when it was first released last year this is a welcome opportunity to redress that mistake and get acquainted with the rising star that is Carson McHone.