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:
And her voice is shinin' with the moon and the stars
and she plays so unspoiled on that two-bit guitar
singin' love and tomorrow and thank the Redeemer
and I doom and anoint her a cowboy singer
Alone in my room when she leaves me again
I stare at the wall and watch death closin' in
But I like to imagine I will meet her someday
In a land at the end of life's lonesome highway
In a fine, high country where the best songs are sung
And the labels don't care if you're old or you're young
And the Martins are cheaper, and the pastures are greener
and all of the angels are cowboy singers."
Ophelia's drowned in the cold, cold flood, a thorn by any other name
Deep red drops on a scarlet bud, Daddy we comin' home
And we don't know where home lies now, but we'll turn up there some damn how
Drawn to the barn and the busted plow and the graves all overgrown..."
Friday evening when the sun goes down it's a five-star party in a one-bar
Dawn comes early but that's all right--we can get a headstart on Saturday night
'Cause I'm just doin' what I do best: runnin' with the devil and the dispossessed
Waitin' on a mission, tryin' to make a plan, chasin' my angel through the promised land
People say, "son you gonna come to harm, better fly right, better stay
down on the farm"
but there ain't no farm here to stay down on, and all my reasons for stayin' are gone...
One fine morning when my ship comes in gonna pack my fortune, take it
Stack my sorrows like stones until I have built me a mansion on a high, high hill
'Cause I'm just doin' what I do best: settin' up my table in the wilderness
Swimmin' in the river, dancin' in the sand, chasin' my angel through the promised land."
Welcome to Texas Underground; we got a barbecue all year' round
smokin' little band with a country sound, we like to have a little fun
so pull up a chair, you can chew on the fat, gets a mite dry but we like it like that
Dance with the lady in the Stetson hat, welcome to Texas, son..."
He grew up in the washes and the rushes and the rain and the wind
And the creatures of the forest and field were his only real friends
And the lily of the valley and the nettle of the plains taught him well
And the new moon shone on him as he wandered through the gully and the dell..."
She was barefoot and pigtails in the silk April dawn
She was skippin' in circles on the neighbor's front lawn
And the gray fog was liftin' when she threw me a kiss
And a woman stepped out of the mist
I'm a coward for leavin', I'm a fool if I stay
I'm a loser in love, 'cause it's simpler that way
And I never will hold her, 'cause she's too good for tears
Or the weight of my many years
They will tell you it's gospel, but they won't tell you why
How love conquers all in the sweet by and by
So we flutter like snowflakes and we twirl in the air
And we melt in our moments of prayer..."
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.
Copyright 1999, Kevin McCarthy and The Peterborough Folk Music Society. This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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