J.R. Carroll proved that he’s leading the state of Oklahoma’s next crop of musical talent that's set to break out during his AMERICANAFEST debut at Nashville’s EXIT/IN on Sept. 22.
Closing out an evening of impeccable music from Tanner Usrey, Logan Halstead, Odie Leigh and Colby Acuff. Carroll came out of the gates with a light-hearted and off-the-cuff approach to his craft that made the show as much a comedy routine as a concert.
“I only moonlight as a singer-songwriter. I’m usually playing with another band, but it’s pretty obscure. You’ve probably never heard of him,” joked Carroll in reference to Zach Bryan, who he plays keys for.
All jokes aside, Carroll’s musical game was top notch from start to finish. Fan favorite sing alongs like 'Diamondhead' and 'Free and Clean (DBPC)' littered the setlist, alongside soon to be favorites like 'Too Late To Change It Now', an unreleased song that Carroll and his band just recorded earlier in the week for his forthcoming debut album.
The show’s most gripping moment came during a rendition of 'Preacher Man', an equally heartbreaking and hopeful ballad about Carroll’s complex relationship with his preacher father and the pressure of not living up to his expectations. It elicited “I love you’s” and other affirmations from those in attendance.
Other stand out moments included Carroll welcoming Tanner Usrey to the stage for a collaboration on their co-write 'Make You Weep', and when he ushered his band to take a break so he could audible into a striking solo cover of Tyler Childers’ 'Rock, Salt & Nails', from the cult classic compilation Live on Red Barn Radio I & II.
Although most of Carroll’s time in the weeks and months ahead will be devoted toward Bryan’s tour dates, he still does have a few of his own. Those include stops at the Auburn Rodeo in Alabama, Texas State Fair in Dallas and a New Year’s Eve getdown with Kaitlin Butts at Tulsa, Oklahoma’s legendary Cain’s Ballroom.
Taken from his live performance at EXIT/IN in Nashville, Tennessee - Friday, September 22nd, 2023.
Free and Clean (DBPC)
Other Than That
Too Late To Change It Now
Make You Weep (feat. Tanner Usrey)
Rock, Salt & Nails (Tyler Childers cover)
Where The Red Fern Grows
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All photos by Laura Ord.