Click to hear: “Restraining Order”
Now. Here. This. is a ragtag compilation of recordings, live and otherwise, by Billy Carroll, a.k.a. “Blind” Billy Blake, a.k.a. Billy.
I first saw Billy, as he known then, about a decade ago at the legendary Free Street Taverna. He performed favorites such as the polka-gag “Chicken” — “Last night, we had chicken / Friday night, we had chicken / Saturday night, we had chicken,” etc. — and “Restraining Order,” which contains great lines like: “Great men like me are never popular / but 500 yards is not so far / I’ll keep in touch with my binoculars / standing in your neighbor’s backyard.”
Carroll is funny, strange, and well versed in the blues — a combination of attributes that’s produced this unpredictable, but consistently entertaining, album.
The lead-off track, “Down Like I’ve Never Been Before,” is a straight blues number. Carroll’s got a roughed-up voice and confident delivery. He keeps the guitar parts simple and rolls this one up in 2:15. Well done.
The following track, “Problem Child,” begins to betray Carroll’s oddness. It’s a blues foot-stomper with lyrics all-but-cribbed from Highway 61 Revisted. Then, after a short piano bit with fake applause (“Swing Call”), we get “Let’s Yeah (We Said Yes),” a catchy, acoustic-pop ditty celebrating his anniversary delivered with sincerity.
“Being With Me Was Like Walking The Dog” (“you’re just waiting for the shit”) is another Dylan knock-off, albeit a weirded-out one replete with kiddie keyboard and low-fi pop backing vocals. “Chicken” follows (recorded live at the Taverna!) followed by “Restraining Order” (recorded live somewhere, possibly at home, but still performed with gusto).
“Watching The Olympics And Waiting For My Friend” is, as the title suggests, two pieces of songs stitched together: a lovely, faux-psychedelic, acoustic-guitar piece that breaks down into laughter, leading to a more fleshed-out snippet of “Swing Time” (and more canned applause).
The ten tracks that make up “side B” of the CD continue to mix the blues and the bizarre. Highlights include “Trombone Shine,” which contains a splice of Carroll’s mom yelling at him back in high school (!) and live favorite “I Want To Boogie Like The Pizza Man.”
Besides the aforementioned “shit,” the lyrics are all PG, which qualifies Now. Here. This. as a good album for hip kids and weirdo parents. You’ll want to pick up this CD next time you see Carroll perform at a local club (he plays Blue regularly) or street corner (he used to work at Books Etc. in the Old Port). You too will want to boogie like the pizza man.
— Chris Busby