A Review of the CD
"When I Go"
by Dave Carter with Tracy Grammer
"When I Go"
Copyright 1998, Dave Carter
by Dave Carter with Tracy Grammer
#140, 25 NW 23rd Pl., Suite 6
Portland, OR 97210
This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 12/98
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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The most inventive, intoxicating, and consistently entertaining release
of the year is this one, "When I Go," with Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer.
From first cut to last, you're not quite sure where you've been transported
to but, believe me, it ain't anything like Kansas.
From the opening last will and testament-like "When I Go" to the haunting
concluding "Elvis Presley," Carter's lyrics are mesmerizing and always
encased in a compelling musical setting. His wit is razor sharp and the
clusters of words he summons from his imagination to form his lyrics grip
the listener line by line by line. With banjo backing, he opens "When I
"Come, lonely hunter, chieftan and king, I will fly like the falcon
when I go
Later on, Carter sings:
Bear me my brother under your wing, I will strike fell like lightning
when I go
I will bellow like the thunder drum, invoke the storm of war
A twisting pillar spun of dust and blood up from the prairie floor
I will sweep the foe before me like a gale out on the snow
And the wind will long recount the story, reverence and glory, when
And when the sun comes trumpets from his red house in the east
It's as if Carter is filling us in on a long-missing chapter of the Book
of Revelations--and that's only song one!
He will find a standing stone where long I chanted my release
He will send his morning messenger to strike the hammer blow
And I will crumble down uncountable in showers of crimson rubies when
"Don't Tread On Me" a talking blues tune similar in style and containing
a reference to Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" comes off simultaneously
like a poke at and a coat of arms for the right wing militia movement.
"Ethyl in the gas tank, chicken on the farm
Semper fidelis on my good right arm
Elvis blastin on the color tv
I'm a U.S. male, dontcha tread on me..."
"...Seems we live and die in a crossfire hurricane
"Annie's Lover" is a charming tune evoking a colorful landscape while "Grand
Prairie TX Homesick Blues" provides a graphic portrait of a misplaced,
downtrodden soul finding himself just biding time in the employ of the
local Burger King until St. Peter calls him home. Carter finishes the song
In the rain but "no pain, no gain". the sign explains
still Jesse James in his coat of flames
held up their one-way gravy train
"Nothin to lose but your workin blues
and your chains," the man with no name claims..."
"...For home is in the heartland but the heartland cannot save you
when the heart is gone
Grammer's sweet violin and harmonies with Carter are the highlights on
"Kate and the Ghost of Lost Love." Carter begins:
and home's moved on."
"Sweet Kate, open your gate--here I stand in the wind
Grammer answers with:
Threadbare, snow in my hair, how I need you again
For lone stalks the hunter's moon, time takes her toll
Love, please, mercy on me and my poor wandrin' soul..."
"...Love is a star that will not shine till the hour of your return
Carter's ability to express brokenheartedness so literately is just way
above the usual standard.
I count the days in cups of wine and the candles I have burned
And sunrise comes only when I am faraway in dreams or when the black
I cannot save my own sad heart nor your poor, poor wandrin' soul..."
In "The River, Where She Sleeps" and "Lancelot," Carter recommences
with his marvelous story-telling. In "Lancelot," he sings:
"Lancelot rode on a swayback mare he won in a card game up north somewhere
He was bottom-out lonesome, he was too tired to care, keepin one step
ahead of the rain
Well, he blew into Broken Bow late last year, talkin up the vision
of his lost Guinevere
But he couldn't tell a grail from a glass of beer, so he settled for
"...Now bugles blow golden and banners fly blue, but these days the
castle's just drywall and glue
He closes with:
and tiltin at windmills is the best you can do with the black knight
of time on your lawn..."
"...But gentle lady lend me the pure heart I never had, and I'll bring
you roses and bread
and we'll fashion gold out of lead
with all the illusions we shed, Lancelot said"
The subtle and quiet "Frank To Valentino" is an effective take on the
identities sometimes assumed in order to cope with life. Carter
"They raised him up on the installment plan--the homely son of a handsome
The young protagonist enters a romantic relationship that eventually sours
and he ends up resorting to growing out his sideburns, wearing platform
shoes and heading to Reno.
neither clear-complected nor expected to achieve
a little bit ragged, a little bit rough, a little too rowdy for the
summer of love
now he's lookin for a reason to believe..."
The tune finishes with:
"...Lord have mercy on the workin stiff pullin graveyards and double-shifts
The weeper "Elvis Presley" is the last tune and every time Carter moans
the part of the chorus "throw out the lifeline, throw out the lifeline,
'cause somebody's driftin away", the heart breaks.
tryin to hold his own beside the pretty and the bright
givin up the dream of his own backyard, jugglin taxes and credit cards
see him rollin like a ghost train through the night."
There isn't a weak cut on this release, an amazing feat considering
the filler artists sometimes include in order to reach an acceptable number
of songs on a CD. Even the trucker tune "Little Liza Jane" is so uniquely
presented, wrapped in incandescent lyrics, and Grammer's touch on the violin,
that the listener becomes riveted to find out what happens next.
Carter has a gift for presenting simple characters and events cloaked
in exquisite and imaginative metaphysical madness. His banjo and guitar
playing and Grammer's harmonies and touching craftsmanship on the violin
amplify the effect of each composition in which they appear.
Amazing enough, this CD, except for "Frank To Valentino" was recorded
in Tracy Grammer's kitchen! Carter supplies lead vocals, guitar, banjo
and bass while Grammer supplies vocals, marvelous violin work, mandolin
and guitar. Eric Park adds harmonica and accordian to the recording. Carter,
now residing in Oregon but originally from the Lone Star State, retains
some Texas twang in his voice and it only adds another delightful component
to the texture of this offering.
There's only 40 or so minutes on this release but it seems as if an
800-page novel has been consumed after listening to it. Carter and Grammer
should offer a money back guarantee to all purchasers of this CD. They
need not worry about any refunds--it's that good. Hell, it's great.
All songs written by Dave Carter.
- When I Go (4:14) 1998
- Don't Tread On Me (3:24) 1997
- Annie's Lover (2:51) 1998
- Grand Prairie TX Homesick Blues (3:23) 1996
- Kate and the Ghost of Lost Love (4:24) 1997
- The River, Where She Sleeps (4:23) 1995
- Lancelot (4:45) 1997
- Frank To Valentino (3:10) 1997
- Little Liza Jane (5:07) 1997
- Elvis Presley (4:46) 1998
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