Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer
This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 2/00
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Picture this, if you will: Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer, at one of the Kerrville songwriter circle campfires, finishing up "Happytown," "The Mountain" or "Cat-Eyed Willie Claims His Lover." Silence prevails momentarily, then lingers just an uncomfortable interval longer. Finally, the other members of the circle stir, quietly packing up instruments and slowly ambling away from the rapidly vanishing assembly. Has it gotten too late? Nah, are you kidding, these are folksingers. Is everyone out of material? See answer number one. So what's with this behavior? Sheepishly but understandably, it is that nobody wants to step up and follow this duo, the thinking being "how in the world can I top that?" And who can blame them?
Carter's and Grammer's latest release, "Tanglewood Tree," continues supplying that intimate portal into the stimulating and eclectic visions of Dave Carter. Carter's delicate poetics flutter from metaphysical to melancholy to metaphorical. Grammer's charming vocals match her moving violin play. The end result is as thought-provoking and enjoyable a collection of songs as will be found this year.
Releasing under the Signature Sounds label has gotten them out of Grammer's kitchen (where their last CD, "When I Go," was recorded) and into an authentic music studio. The result is eleven cuts offering a myriad of textures and rhythms, with the effect being a fuller, more complex sound than their last release, although it should be noted "Farewell To Fiddlers Rim" was recorded in Grammer's venerable kitchen. In addition to their usual pleasing harmonies, Carter and Grammer trade lead vocals this time around, with Grammer doing the honors on four of the cuts.
The scintillating "Happytown" opens the release, with Carter at his most mystical but still taking a humble wink and nod at how we navigate this rambling road and its many pathways that we call life:
shootin' fools and starry gazers, wizard hip and button-down
I walk the occam razor way through priests and circus clowns
am I a missioner of faith or grace or vision or
another grinning prisoner of happytown...
so strap me in, I'm going clear - burning circles around the sun
the fisher king is here, but he is not the only one
Parcival and Valentino ridin' winged palominos
Willie in his el camino, on the run..."
love is an old root that creeps through the meadows of sleep
when the long shadows cast
thin as a vagrant young vine, it encircles and twines
and it holds the heart fast
catches dreamers in the wildwood with the stars in their eyes
and the moon in their tousled hair
but love is a light in the sky, and an unspoken lie
and a half-whispered prayer..."
some poor prophet comes, some find solace
some lay him down in a junkyard bay
some will chase us and some will call us
gone, gone, gone in a day...
some build temples and some find altars
some come in tall hats and robes spun fine
some in rags, some in gemstone halters
some push the pegs back in line
I see the mountain, the mountain comes to me
I see the mountain and that is all I see..."
Well, I hooked up with a carny, little outa Memphis
slavin' in a sideshow, pennies in a jar
beetle-eyed jokers and hicktown princes,
rhinestone rubies and rubber cigars
wrassled me a gator up in Omaha city,
did me another down in New Orleans
tangled with the barker, run off with the kitty,
crawled the Mississippi and I got away clean..."
now Bonnie make the bed you were born in
turn your daddy's picture to the wall
for you'll not marry Cody come the mornin'
tonight ol' shufflin' Willie comes to call
Bonnie Brown, you can run and hide, fly my honey lamb
you can cry have mercy and crawl the cane for cover
but you're bound for the butcher's bride
the slew-foot devil won't be denied
when cat-eyed Willie comes to claim his lover..."
oh build my tomb down in some meadow lovely
mark it with the traitor diamond knave
for I have served one master true and only
and I shall sleep beside him in the grave..."
There may be equals but surely there is no one better at assembling words, phrases, thoughts and ideas than Dave Carter. When he reaches deep inside and pulls out these surreal and symbolic pearls from his unconscious, we are all in for an intoxicating treat.
With apologies to the unquestionable singing and instrumental talents of Tracy Grammer, I have a suggestion. Title the CD "Being Dave Carter"? Just how much would you be willing to pay for 15 minutes inside this guy's brain?
Carter on vocals, guitar, banjo, piano and Hammond organ and Grammer on vocals, violin, mandolin and acoustic guitar are backed by Richard Gates on electric bass; Lorne Entress on drums and percussion; Roger Williams on dobro; Bob Dick on upright bass; and Chris Turner on harmonica.
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