Music

Hear the Self-Aware Ache of Carson McHone’s ‘Sad’

Laura Hajar

Austin singer-songwriter Carson McHone has announced that Carousel, her second full-length album, will be released Oct. 26 via Nine Mile Records. Along with the announcement of the new album, McHone has shared “Sad,” the first track on the dark and burgeoning Carousel.

“Sad” starts off with a meandering sway with callbacks to “Tennessee Whiskey” before breaking off into a rolling mid-tempo gust. Though it’s filled with rakes of fiddle and warbling pedal steel, it remains uncluttered as it punches along.

“Well, here’s the deal. I got this thing, I call it sad and it calls me home,” McHone sings. She dives into the idea of sad songs and the false notion that they’re simply written to further someone’s state of misery. She embraces that quivering sorrow. It shapes her’s vocal tone and cries. She’s smoke billowing into a room. Sadness plays the part of a femme fatale. She’s creeping around the corner waiting to strike.

McHone sings as though the words are coming to her in the moment of recording. That isn’t to say she sounds unrehearsed though. Her delivery simply feels refreshingly natural as she goes down the melancholy road paved by “Sad.” Still, she isn’t merely filled or moved by bleak misery. She adds some perspective with the final lines “There is no shadow without the light. There is a sadness both day and night” at the end.

Carousel is the follow-up to McHone’s promising debut album Goodluck Man. This go-around, the young Texas songwriter enlisted veteran producer Mike McCarthy. Though widely known for his acutely cunning and canny efforts with indie rock darlings such as Spoon, White Denim and …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, McCarthy’s catalog is filled with work with a wide range of country and rootsy Americana artists. In turn, McCarthy and McHone unearth a rich blend of earthy tones and textures. It’s closer to the sonic punches found on McCarthy’s work with Patty Griffin, Jack Ingram, Heartless Bastards and Lee Ann Womack.

“There was a time when I wanted to champion traditional country,” McHone says in a press release. “Mostly because I wasn’t hearing it in what was being called ‘country.’ I think a lot of roots-influenced artists feel the need to defend tradition in this way. Today though, I want to do more with the form, push myself past where I understand it to be.”

Carousel pushes those boundaries while still feeling like songs sitting at the end of a honky-tonk dive bar. There may not be as much twang found on the classic country music standards found in the jukebox a few steps away, but make no mistake, McHone’s voice as a songwriter stems from that same place of uneased vulnerability and uncertainty. She just covers more ground with Carousel.

Though known for her honky-tonk chops—the Austin native was well known for her residency at local dive The White Horse—there’s a soulful streak in McHone’s voice that cannot be escaped. McHone’s expanding palette is perhaps, in part, due to her contributions to Ray Wylie Hubbard‘s The Ruffian’s Misfortune (“Chick Singer, Badass Rockin'”) ShinyribsOkra Candy (“Baby What’s Wrong”), Uncle Lucius The Light (“No Time Flat”) and several others.

McHone will extensively tour throughout the fall in support of Carousel including three shows during next month’s AmericanaFest.

Carson McHone Tour Dates

Sept 5 — Seattle, Wash. — Tractor Tavern (with Joe Pug)
Sept 6 — Portland, Ore. — The Old Church (with Joe Pug)
Sept 11 — Nashville, Tenn. — The 5 Spot (AmericanaFest)
Sept 12 – Nashville, Tenn. – The Basement East – Paul Cauthen‘s Big Velvet Revue (AmericanaFest)
Sept 16 — Nashville, Tenn. — 3rd & Lindsley (AmericanaFest)
Oct 13 — Kountze, Texas — Hogs For The Cause Festival
Oct 20 — Tampa, Fla. — Pig Jig Festival
Nov 1 — Austin, Texas — Cactus Cafe
Nov 2 — Houston, Texas — McGonigels Mucky Duck
Nov 3 — San Antonio, Texas — Lonesome Rose
Nov 6 — Oklahoma City, Okla. — The Blue Door
Nov 7 — Kansas City, Mo. — Knuckleheads
Nov 8 — Davenport, Iowa — Racoon Motel
Nov 9 — Chicago, Ill. — The Hideout
Nov 10 — Indianapolis, Ind. – TBD
Nov 11 — Newport, Ky. — Southgate House
Nov 13 — Brooklyn, N.Y. — Skinny Dennis
Nov 14 — New York, N.Y. — Hill Country BBQ
Nov 15 — Washington D.C. — Hill Country BBQ
Nov 16 — Chattanooga, Tenn. — Halfway House Concerts
Nov 17 — Nashville, Tenn. — The Basement

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Hear the Self-Aware Ache of Carson McHone’s ‘Sad’