Alan Recommends: “She Left Me for Jesus” by Hayes Carll

I’m mostly OK, most of the time, with my lot in life, but I also wish I was Hayes Carll.

Carll is one of those musicians who is acclaimed and respected but not famous. He is so skilled as a songwriter that I’m comfortable talking about him in the same breath as John Prine and Townes Van Zandt. Every song he writes is better than almost every mainstream country tune that’s been recorded in my lifetime, but my favorite song is “She Left Me for Jesus,” from Trouble in Mind, an album that opens with a song Carll wrote with an acclaimed and respected but not necessarily famous legend, Ray Wylie Hubbard.

“She Left Me for Jesus,” which was co-written with Brian Keene, is the last and the countriest song on the album, featuring a steel guitar and Carll singing with a little extra twang in his voice. The song plays on the classic jilted lover theme, with a humorous twist equivocating on the word “find” in finding Jesus:

She left me for Jesus and that just ain’t fair
She says that he’s perfect, how could I compare
She says I should find him and I’ll know peace at last
If I ever find Jesus, I’m kickin’ his ass

The narrator thinks his rival is some sandal-wearing hippie-freak-commie named Jesus, but the listener knows the narrator is actually jealous of his lover’s Lord and Savior. At the moment, I can’t think of any other songs, in any genre, that employ dramatic irony.

The funniest moment comes in the third verse, where the narrator declares,

I’m gonna get even, I can’t handle the shame
Why the last time we made love, she even called out his name.

It’s a funny song, but it’s not a novelty song. The musicianship is first-rate. Even some Paul Ryanesque ignorer of discomforting lyrics could still dance along.

For the record, I could imagine some hyper-sensitive Christians being offended, but the joke here is on the narrator, not anyone’s religious beliefs; although I’m less certain about that claim after watching the video.

(Song recommendation by Alan Good)

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