“Let’s Get On with The Illusion,” sings Barton Carroll on his fourth album, Together You and I on Skybucket Records, out January 19, 2009. It’s a song about love – but a shoulder-shrug type of love that resigns itself to “I guess this is good enough.” A cynical narrative runs through the album for sure, but Carroll’s sardonic wit is coupled with lightly shuffling horns, making for happy sounding songs instead of a somber ones. His tone and sleight-of-hand songwriting skill gained him critical acclaim for his previous release, The Lost One from Pitchfork, Harp, American Songwriter and more. Is Carroll singing about his own experiences or smiling with a beer and watching others screw it up (and then taking home the girl)?
“I tried to think like Cole Porter when I wrote that song. He was a master at metaphor,” says Carroll. “His songs were sweet and dark, hopeless and happy, fresh and unashamedly cliché. Sounds a lot like love.”
A North Carolina native who now lives in Seattle, Carroll’s songs are structured in folk traditions he grew up with, but he trades in standard instrumentation for the west Coast horn sound of Craig Flory, and the production of Jazz bassist, Matt Weiner. The three bonded over a love of the Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond records of the 1960’s, and the influence comes through. He also sings his first duets with Seattle singer Anna Lisa Notter.
Carroll’s love for a previous era comes alive on the first track, “The Poor Boy Can’t Dance.” “I love how the band sounds on this one. They sound like a WWII era English Swing band: the kind of guys who are classically trained, but they have just been bitten by the Swing bug. Love that clarinet!,” says Carroll.
“Something Good” is the only song Carroll didn’t write, and it comes from an odd-sounding source for a Seattle based musician – The Sound of Music. “This has been a regular in my live set for the past few years. It was the first song that I decided to put on this album, and I think it sets the tone for the whole record. I think it lives beautifully between hope and sadness. And I thought the first line sounded a bit like a Barton Carroll song, ‘Perhaps I had a wicked childhood. Perhaps I had a miserable youth.’”
The title song is akin to a desultory short story – a follow up to “Burning Red And Blue,” a song of destructive love from the last record. But, with Notter’s vocal and traces of hope in the characters, maybe their ending will be okay after all. “The characters are a few years older. The man has been imprisoned, and the woman is trying to adjust to life alone in a foreign land. This is the conversation they have through the prison glass.”
Barton Carroll grew up in Banner Elk, North Carolina. He has toured and recorded in Crooked Fingers, Azure Ray and Dolorean. “Together You And I” is his fourth solo album. He lives in Seattle.