Barton Carroll The Lost One

Northwestern songsmith Carroll has toured and recorded with Crooked Fingers and Eric Bachmann, but this, his third album, establishes him as a serious solo contender. A wistful and melancholy tone infuses his vocals, as on haunting steel-tinged opener "Pretty Girl’s Going To Ruin My Life (Again).” The often sardonic, lustful and self-deprecating lyrics keep him from being pegged as just another sad sack, angst-filled artiste, however. He’s most ambitious, musically and lyrically, on "Small Thing,” a six-minute epic featuring brass and strings that references Stalingrad and the ravages of war. Josh Ritter would gladly claim this one. Far lighter is one of the album’s most melodic cuts, "Brooklyn Girl, You’re Going To Be My Bride.” Admitting, "I’m not a dandy or the sharpest knife in the drawer,” he seeks to woo a girl who’s "drowning in boys and hipster noise.” The slow "Burning Red And Blue” is both sinister and erotic, with Carroll pleading for a lover to "wear something lacy and black to give me my fun.” There’s not a dud here, the musicianship is top-notch and there’s enough stylistic variety to keep things interesting. Why an album this good, and recorded two years ago, is just now being released is unclear, but we can be grateful it didn’t end up as a lost one. (Skybucket)