Sometimes, a friend with a good ear for a tune will recommend an artist. Occasionally another artist you admire will recommend an artist. In advance of Hayes Carll’s show at Belfast’s Out To Lunch Festival with the Real Music Club, the recommendations came thick and fast. This was the show on everyone’s lips.

Hayes Carll took up residence in the middle of the Oh Yeah Music Centre’s stage, looking just at home in downtown Belfast as he would in his native Texas. Comfortable, chatty, and laden with that dry humour that I suspect the Irish may first have brought to the United States themselves.

Self-accompanying on acoustic guitar, the critically acclaimed songwriter kicked off with ‘Good While It Lasted and ‘Sake Of The Song; tales of the road-weary artist in a true Americana vein. The latter, in particular, saw Carll at his most autobiographical.

If you’re nobody’s business or you’re front page news; rock, country or Delta Blues. Tell your truth however you choose and do it all for the sake of the song.

Hayes Carll draws heavily on some renowned influence. Strains of Bob Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’ echo through ‘Wild As A Turkey. and yet his work alongside contemporary artists and deep south peers is equally captivating.

Writing with Darrell Scott has produced ‘The Magic Kid’, a ballad prefaced with tales of bad magic tricks and fatherly advice and support. ‘Jesus and Elvis’ famously sung by Kenny Chesney tugs on heartstrings and feels somewhat more sombre under the festive appearing fairy lights of the Cathedral Quarter venue. The final refrain mimicking the old country classic ‘Will The Circle Be Unbroken’ is effective in its subtlety.

There are a handful of new songs including ‘Times Like These’, ‘Nunya’, and ‘I Will Stay’ and a self-deprecating promo for a new album due in “summer of twenty… twenty-two”.

Carll thanks the crowd and the festival for “letting me do what I do” and rounds off with ‘Bad Liver and a Broken Heart’, a tale that most who spend a life on the road could potentially attest to. Belfast sings along softly. As a city, maybe we know just as much about the sentiment.

Highlight’s of an all-round, good feeling show were Corb Lund’s ‘Bible On The Dash’ that had the crowd whooping and hollering like inmates of Folsom half a century before.

Further religious fervour came through in the cheers for ‘She Left Me For Jesus’, a witty break-up tale with overtones of an Evangelical nature that would be no stranger to those from the south of Texas or the north of Ireland.

With little fuss, the encore wraps up with ‘Wish I Hadn’t Stayed So Long’. Belfast seems content that not a minute spent by Hayes Carll in their city has been wasted. The only wish being that the lapse between visits is lessened next time around.

Hayes Carll Setlist Oh Yeah Centre, Belfast, Northern Ireland 2018