What makes a good farmer?
A work ethic superseding common sense.
An appreciation for silence.
A soft touch from harden hands. And heart.
After completing this list, truly stream of conscious and not realizing where it was going, I discovered I had just described a good songwriter. A pair of them.
Fair measure to Chris and Adam Carroll, spouses and—here on Good Farmer—duet partners, Wimberley, Texas residents, and the finest authentic country duet encountered since the last Kelly Willis-Bruce Robison project. [Checks iTunes: dammit—they have a new one I haven’t heard! Need to fix that—anyone got some spare credits?]
Coming on the heels of Adam’s well-received I Walked In Them Shoes, Good Farmer is much like what one imagines a festival set by the Carrolls might be. Some familiar songs (the essential “Hi-Fi Love,” subtly updated, and “Take Me Away,” a song co-written by Adam half-a-lifetime ago and fully refreshed with Chris’ lead) and a large selection of concisely constructed, loosely-presented gems.
“Tough As Nails” was obviously written about and for Chris, Adam singing this list of appreciation and infatuation; in another world, Willie P. Bennett would have been proud of crafting a song this genuine, I believe. Turnabout being fair play, Chris sings “Love You Already” straight into her man’s eyes. Beautiful stuff, not biographical by any means but the intent appears apparent.
An intimate, honest album (not in the cringe-worthy sense) the duo’s shared admiration for John Prine is apparent in both their songwriting and presentation. They handle a variety of stringed instruments (Chris, mandolin and guitar; Adam, rhythm and lead guitar, as well as a bit of harmonica) with producer Lloyd Maines pulling from his old kit bag all manner of accompaniment, as is his wont. A touch of fiddle (“Take Me Away”) from Dennis Ludiker completes the picture.
“Louise” exceeds its origins (a self-imposed challenge to write the 251st song about Louise) and Sam Baker couldn’t do better than “The Old Wilted Rose;” “she’s a sweet violin with a song left to play, and he just lights up when she looks his way.” Beautiful.
“Ocean of Peace,” Jesus: had “Sam Stone” had such, he may have found a better path. With The Tree of Forgiveness, John Prine proved he remains the master. With this song, Adam and Chris not only pay homage, but sit down beside the legend to share a kaleidoscope of perspective.
Which brings us to the gentle title track, an ode to powerful, nurturing women who have impressed Chris over the years. Within “The Old Wilted Rose,” Adam sings “We all got our own rows to hoe,” and “Good Farmer” allows Chris to appreciate some of the qualities she has observed in those she has encountered.
This one gets the full Fervor Coulee nod of appreciation.