Praise for EVERYBODY SMOKES IN HELL:
PENGUIN EGGS REVIEW
NOTES FROM THE UNDER GROUND:
Ottawa bluesman John Carroll has surely come up with the album title of the year: Everybody Smokes In Hell. The recording, too, rates as his best to date, reckons Pat Langston (click here for the direct link):
-Amanda Putz, CBC Radio Bandwidth & Canada Live Host (RE: Album Everybody Smokes in Hell)
"It was recorded live at Ottawa’s Little Bullhorn Studios with back up players Fred Guignon on lap slide, Olivier Fairfield on drums and Philippe Charbonneau on the stand up bass (AKA Epic Proportions). The project was recorded using “Dave Draves’ meticulous old-school process of recording to tape before converting tracks to digital”, which no doubt helped capture the raw and honest musicality of John Carroll and gave the album a warmth fitting of its title." – indieAndie (RE: Album Everybody Smokes in Hell)
"It’s bluesy in a narrative, visual way, with lyrics such as “they say the sinner suffers until he atones/ I don’t know a closet that ain’t full of bones/ even Jesus didn’t live all that clean/ go on and ask Mary Magdalene.” The words, and the vocal effects used on some songs, will be familiar to any fan of Tom Waits. (But) Carroll isn’t imitating Waits, or anybody else. He’s developing his own sound with clever and lyrical songs, and a band that’s well chosen. The sound is fuller, more expansive than heard on the earlier CDs, and that could be the result of the music having Carroll’s undivided attention. He’s been making music for 25 years or so, but eight years ago he began doing it full-time. It’s a leap that many musicians can’t, or won’t dare, make." -Peter Simpson, Ottawa Citizen (RE: Album Everybody Smokes in Hell)
"At 42 and one of the hardiest of Ottawa’s singer-songwriters he urges listeners to relax and enjoy life more on this rambling and deliciously dirty album of want-to-be-bad blues. It’s the musical equivalent of a noir crime novel."
- Denis Armstrong, Ottawa Sun (RE: Album Everybody Smokes in Hell)
“John Carroll’s songwriting skill comes through in his music.He is an assured performer who is memorable for his dry humour and relaxed stage presence”
-Patrick Langston, Ottawa Citizen (RE: Live Shows)
“For me John Carroll’s album epitomizes everything roots music should be: Personal detailed songs that haven’t been written before. He’s cliche- free, and the way he’s not afraid of looking the abyss in the eye isn’t depressing, it’s invigorating.”
Ottawa Citizen Review- Patrick Langston
Everybody Smoke in Hell
John Carroll & The Epic Proportions
The cover art - a Gustave Dore engraving for Dante's Inferno showing sinners condemned to spend eternity upside down in flaming rock - suggests that John Carroll may be annoyed with wrong-doers. Sure enough, the excellent third album by the Ottawa country blues/folk man, who sometimes sounds uncannily like Mississippi John Hurt, pillories the guilty.
On the title track, it's the religiously righteous. The wealthy one per-centers scorned by the Occupy movement get soundly scolded in the rattling Piggy. And our tendency to overrate the intellectural elite is skewered from the vantage point of a paid but ignored house party entertainer in The Party.
Carroll is a wry, observant musician who elsewhere tackles perennially favorite subjects like a free-spending gal and, in the driving Frontal Lobotomy Blues, the dangers of television addiction.
(In addition to the CD launch tonight at the Black Sheep Inn, Carroll plays the Chateau Lafayette in the ByWard Market every Wednesday.)
Ottawa Citizen Feature - Peter Simpson
Ottawa Sun Review - Denis Armstrong
At 42 and one of the hardiest of Ottawa’s singer-songwriters he urges listeners to relax and enjoy life more on this rambling and deliciously dirty album of want-to-be-bad blues.
It’s the musical equivalent of a noir crime novel.
“I hope everybody smokes in hell, otherwise, it’ll be a pretty long, dull eternity,” Carroll jokes. “I’ve seen friends resolve to quit smoking, then beat themselves up when they fail. I wish they would enjoy it, or quit and stop giving themselves hard time. It’s so neurotic. We put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect. So much energy goes into feeling bad about feeling good.”
That’s a theme that might have a sharp resonance for us ne-er-do-wells in the city that fun forgot.
In spirit, Carroll’s seedy blues and hard-luck stories get the same sense of resignation and gallows humour that marks Tom Waits’ songs — Funny How the Money Just Disappears, When the Robots Come, Frontal Lobotomy Blues, Buddy When I Go.
“As an artist and writer, I try to counter the promise of beer-ad culture,” Carroll explains.
“Pop music makes promises it can almost never keep, but I come from a different place. I’m a little bit older and have had more experience — good and bad. It all works out in the end.”
Recorded at Dave Draves’ Little Bullhorn studio, Carroll and his band of Ottawa’s most seasoned players Fred Guignon on lap and steel, Olivier Fairfield on drums and Philippe Charbonneau on bass, recorded the album live off the floor directly onto old-fashioned tape in order to catch that live vibe Carroll gets at the Chateau Lafayette, where he plays every Wednesday night.
After seven years of busking, Carroll recorded his first album The True Confessions of an Infamous Liar in 2003. Lost Radio followed in 2008.
“The idea is doing everything right and perfectly is a lonely place. Being in control is something we pretend to be, but we all struggle with our bad habits. Those are the interesting stories behind the album.”
“This album is more optimistic and lighter than my previous records,” he adds.
“I tend to write songs about intangible moral issues and the state of the human condition. People seem so dark on the outside, but full of comedy on the inside. We all deserve a little sympathy.”
Apt. 613 Review - Francois
I was at the Laff to catch Carroll’s set and to discuss his new album Everyone Smokes in Hell, but I also wanted to talk about his Ottawa roots. Carroll grew up in the city but has lived in Kemptville for the last little while. Carroll’s gig at the Laff started when, after a few of the bartenders and regulars of the Laff had seen him busking around the Market, one of the staff offered him a Tuesday night slot to complimentLucky Ron. It was at a time where business for bars like the Laff, who where still feeling the effects of the smoking ban, was really slow, so Carroll said what the hell. Overtime, the gig became a Wednesday night residency and a few years on the crowds of people, young and old, still keep coming.
Carroll performs as a guitarist and singer and plays a mix of his songs and covers, doing whatever feels right at the time. “It leaves me lots of time to reinterpret things on the fly and tap into the mood of the crowd.” He’s well-known throughout the city and beyond but doesn’t feel like he’s outgrown the Laff. “Maybe when there’s a line-up outside every week, but that’s not the case right now!” He jokes. The place is just like a second home to him and he says that it makes it an interesting challenge to play the same room every week. It gets you to strengthen your performance skills.
Carroll had a big grin when telling the crowd that his CD release was almost sold out at the Blacksheep Inn (although he was quick to say they can always fit a few more in). His new album is a full band recording done as a group effort with his stage band – The Epic Proportions. Working with other musicians took the music in a slightly different direction for Carroll, whose two previous albums were solo efforts. “While there’s always a lot of deliberation, it’s nice to let people that devout to their skills do what they do well. We really tapped into the group energy.” he says. The album’s a combination of country blues, folk roots and rock n’ roll. You can listen to it in full here. When I suggest that some of the songs appear much lighter than the first cut on the album, also entitled Everyone Smokes in Hell, he grins and says: “If all the smokers end up in hell, they won’t be alone! You have to always look at the positive side of a story.”
Carroll’s has seen the music scene change quite a bit since his teens (he’s now 42). He says there’s more support now for original music than in his youth and names folks like Souljazz Orchestra, Meredith Luce and André Bluteau as people that are making a name for themselves in Ottawa and beyond.
While he’s thinking about a short tour outside of Ottawa for the spring, he and the Epic Proportions are focusing on the CD release. He’s looking forward to playing for a packed show at the Blacksheep and hopes to blow the roof off the building and party hard.
Birdie Whyte will be opening for John. And Roy, as always, will be there with his dancing shoes on.