It's unfair to call Bill Carter a musician who operates behind the scenes but most of his mainstream success arrived as a songwriter, not performer. Usually, those successes arrived via a Vaughan Brother: the Fabulous Thunderbirds turned "Why Get Up" into a drive-time staple and Stevie Ray Vaughan cut both "Willie the Wimp" and "Tightrope." Some of Innocent Victims & Evil Companions, Carter's ninth solo album, recalls this kind of Texan blues-rock -- certainly there's a stronger through-line between '80s blues and this 2016 set than there is between this LP and Bill's other notable Austin connection, that of the Butthole Surfers' Gibby Haynes (Carter was part of P in the '90s and played on 1996's Electriclarryland) -- but it's hard to call this album conventional. Carter steers Innocent Victims & Evil Companions into the realm of dry, dusty Americana poetry, offsetting his muscular roots-rockers with meditative ballads. Often, he even splices these two aesthetics together, resulting in muscular open-ended numbers where his observations and introspections are grounded by lean writing and earthy performances. He'll tip his hat to particular styles -- "Moscow Girls" is a Tex-Mex delight, "Fisherman's Daughter (Delaney's Song)" is straight-ahead blues, both "Bughouse in Pasadena" and "Exiled" are powered by a love of kinetic AM pop-trash, "No More Runnin'" ends the album on an elegiac, soulful note -- but the most impressive thing about Innocent Victims & Evil Companions is how Carter threads all these sounds and sensibilities to create something that's distinctively Texan and humanly idiosyncratic.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine