Tim Carroll

Free Again

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Blending cocky, good-humored rock & roll with tasty, understated country accents (and adding some limber guitar work for seasoning), Tim Carroll's Not for Sale would have been one of the finest major-label releases of 2000 if the major label that commissioned it hadn't decided to shelve it, which just goes to show you shouldn't trust a multinational conglomerate to make a decision about something as important as rock & roll. Once again managing his own affairs, Carroll has released Free Again, a set of tunes he cut in 1999 while waiting out Not for Sale's release; it's a bit more downbeat and less chipper than Not for Sale (not difficult to understand, given the circumstances), but it still offers plenty of cool rockin' evidence that Carroll is one of the finest unsung talents on the music scene today. Opening with a bluesy breakup tune about a guy smart enough to know he screwed up, but not quite ready to face up to it ("Does This Mean We're Through"), Free Again is dominated by tales of honky-tonks and heartbreaks (though "Better Dream" and "I'd Rather Give Out" make it clear this guy may be a bit down but he sure ain't out), which Carroll spins in a lyrical voice that makes him sound like one of the last regular guys in rock & roll who still has something to say, and an interesting way of saying it. Carroll's also a fine guitar player, long on cool melodic figures and short on pointless flash and, alongside bassist Scott Yoder and drummer Rick Schell, he's the core of a potent rock & roll trio that knows when to swing and when to stomp. Add tasteful, hands-off production from Andy Paley and you've got a great little album of tough, twang-friendly roots rock; in a just world, every A&R man in America would be offering Carroll a sweetheart deal, but in the meantime he'll just have to settle for being one of the best and brightest rockers to come down the pike in quite a while, and Free Again proves that isn't idle talk.

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