Barton Carroll

Seattle-based musician Barton Carroll has toured as a member of and also served as an accompanist with Azure Ray, Delorean and Micah P. Hinson. So his bluegrass/alt-country credentials are fairly strong. As a solo singer-songwriter, however, Carroll evokes '70s archetypes James Taylor, Jim Croce and Cat Stevens, presenting sensitive tales of lost love with wit and wisdom.

Songs like "Pretty Girl's Going to Ruin My Life (Again)" and "Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still" tell a good deal of the story as Carroll uses his high, dry voice to convey a range of emotions, most of them heartbreaking. With a backing band that includes upright bassist Matt Weiner and fiddler Paul Elliot, Carroll invests The Lost One, his third effort, with more confidence and detail than any previous release. "Don't tell me that you've had enough/You know it makes me so sad," sings Carroll on "Superman, " with a resignation so strong that you can almost hear his jaw clenching.

Yet even when things appear the bleakest, as on "These Days Are Gone, And My Heart is Breaking," Carroll instills just the right amount of optimism to keep things from collapsing into so much melodrama. Deftly mixing country, folk and adult pop, Barton Carroll is smart and talented enough to realize that even the most shaded areas sometimes see a little light.