A Review of the CD
"Snake Handlin' Man"
by Dave Carter


"Snake Handlin' Man"
by Dave Carter

Copyright 1995
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A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange by Kevin McCarthy, 6/99
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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The music field, like most creative spheres, is revealing in that it offers the listener the opportunity to effortlessly travel back in time to experience the early musical endeavors of burgeoning artists. Doing so, after one's first and only exposure to a performer was his latest work, shines an unremitting spotlight on the evolution of the artist's talent.

Such is the case with Dave Carter. After being mesmerized by his (and Tracy Grammer's) dazzling breakout release, "When I Go," the occasion to turn back the clock and engage his first production is time well spent. While not as overall consistently brilliant as "When I Go," Carter's genesis production, "Snake Handlin' Man," still rewards the listener with his mystical meanderings and elegant, enchanting lyricism.

The evidence begins on his opening cut "Cowboy Singer." Carter takes the familiar territory of an older singer providing the nod to a naive supplicant to enter the cowboy singer fraternity, and he raises the bar at least a few notches with his writing:

The abstruse "Red (Elegy)" is Carter at his most elliptical. Containing a marvelously moving chorus that changes in its last two lines each time, it goes: The last chorus is: Replicating the mixture of anger and rebelliousness of Bruce Springsteen's song of the same name, Carter takes that volatile combination out of New Jersey and plunks it down out West in "The Promised Land." He sings: "Texas Underground" is Carter's charmingly humorous take on his home state of Texas, albeit one with a bite towards the end. He sings: His next to last verse adds the punch: "Gun-Metal Eyes" is a touching ballad offering yet another of Carter's inimitable choruses. Depicting the life of a young American Indian, Carter sings: The chorus goes: Faced with the destruction of his habitat in the name of development and progress, the young Indian takes a stand: "...and the boss man knew better, but he had an empire to raise and one lone man stood before him with a rifle and doom on his face." It's not clear what happens after that but the song closes with: The hauntingly bittersweet "Sarah Turn 'Round" closes out the release. A love song as only few can pen, it goes: The chorus: Whew, please pass the tissue.

Carter also performs a rendition here of "The River, Where She Sleeps," as he does on his latest release.

Quite simply, Carter is a remarkable talent--the evidence quite prescient even on this initial release. For those captivated by the written word, he will elevate the spirit, rewarding the listener with inventive, heartwarming and bewitching sacraments drawn from his mystical, private universe.

Carter, on vocals, guitar and banjo is backed by Dana Denton on vocals and percussion; Arlene Hale on bass and vocals; Carolyn Laster on accordian and vocals; Susan Martin on vocals; Eric Park on harmonica; and Nancy Young-Mathisen on vocals and keys.

Track List:

All songs written by Dave Carter.

Copyright 1999, Kevin McCarthy and The Peterborough Folk Music Society. This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.


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