Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer
This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 5/01
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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First run through: intriguing, maybe a little different. Second go around: a delectable, multi-layered release, glowing with power, beauty, insight and subtlety. The experience to be had: climb aboard and travel familiar territory with Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer, but look for previously undiscovered passageways. For Carter and Grammer releases are change agents for those willing to journey baggageless. The end result is an altered vision, seeing the old and the new in a deeper and more appreciative manner.
Carter's songwriting is, as always, superlative. It's as if he doesn't actually compose but instead takes a form of dictation, in tune with messages revealed to him through some sort of unique cosmic consciousness. Like the great marble sculptors of the past, the final product already exists--Carter's greatness is his ability to provide nuance and shading while releasing these gifts from their mortal trappings.
What about those aforementioned differences? Drum and percussion are more prominent than in the past, and Grammer also provides a number of scintillating violin solos and flourishes. The singing is equally divided with each artist featured on six cuts.
"Ordinary Man" opens the release. Songs about cookie cutter lives, fitting into molds and accepting conventional roles are not new. But the difference is when Carter writes and Grammer sings:
"...'go home, go home,' the mayor cried when Jesus came to city hall, 'causeIn "Disappearing Man," Carter so delicately and uniquely describes a couple's divergent feelings as, again, Grammer sings:
this is an ordinary town and the prophet stands alone
this is an ordinary town and we crucify our own
and every highway leads you prodigal again
to the ordinary houses you were brought up in..."
"...in the dark, in the dawn, with your wedding dress in tattersGrammer sings of the attraction of differences in "236-6132":
you reveal the yearning desert in the country of your skin
how you ache for the fawn and he says it doesn't matter
but it does, and he's gone, and you know that he won't be back again..."
"...'cause he feints and fades from view like a fighter ducks a glove"I Go Like the Raven," with a Grammer-led violin rhythm that would get a corpse a twitchin', precedes "Highway 80," the usual nod to road songs included on all Carter-Grammer releases.
though I play the highway kind and he the china dancer
If I was afraid to break and bleed
I would find someone much easier to need..."
"The Gentle Arms of Eden" and "Merlin's Lament" both feature lyrics that will elicit tears. Sweetly yet cannily depicting evolution, Carter's mantra-like chorus in "The Gentle Arms of Eden," goes:
"...This is my home, this is my only home
this is the only sacred ground that I have ever known
and should I stray in the dark night alone
rock me goddess in the gentle arms of Eden..."
In "Merlin's Lament," Carter sings:
"...and joy my love was a dancin' spring, and life from the touch of her lipsAs with "Farewell to Bitterroot Valley," the last cut on their 2000 release "Tanglewood Tree," Grammer closes with a soft, soulful offering, "Gentle Soldier of My Soul." A perfect landing indeed.
and a brook ran mad to my cave downstream from the miracle hills of her hips
she will not come back, she will not come back,
though the stars hang their tears in the trees
and tireless Orion lies spent in his tracks
she will not come back, she will not come back
she will not come back to me, she will not come back to me"
How do you top "Tanglewood Tree," the most-played folk release of 2000? Drum Hat Buddha.
Carter, on vocals, guitar, banjo, harmonium, mandolin and organ; and Grammer, on vocals, violin, mandolin, guitar and percussion, are backed by Lorne Entress on drums and percussion; Donny Wright on electric and acoustic bass; Eric Park on accordion; Billy Oskay on violin and harmonium; Nancy Ives on cello; Tim Darby on slide resonator guitar and Claire Bard on backing vocals.
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