A Review of the Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer CD
"American Noel"


"American Noel"
by Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer

Copyright 2008
Signature Sounds Recordings/Tracy Grammer Music
Signature Sounds
Tracy Grammer
Dave & Tracy

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 11/08
"Kevin and Maxine's Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Initially it's jarring to hear Dave Carter's voice because it's on a 'new' song. Has there been some sort of a resurrection? Has Carter written the counterpoint and now is acting out "When I Return"?

Cue the "Mother, I Climbed" lines:
"...I rode to heaven never thinkin' I`d be back this way
now I`m standin' at your doorstep with my halo turnin' grey..."
Or maybe it's that DC has been hiding away somewhere in the hinterlands in a singlewide all this time, writing and rehearsing?

Will this be the mother of all comebacks?

But that discordancy soon evaporates into a sweet and soothing refreshment, a mighty 'welcome back' regardless, as whatever his current address, Carter ventures further into "Go Tell the Fox." It's the opening cut on what Tracy Grammer describes as a hardware store holiday gift compilation.

Carter and Grammer were among those tapped to provide songs and tunes as part of releases created at the request of the head of a hardware firm for his employees. They contributed from 1999 to 2001.

Now these offerings are packaged together in a CD titled "American Noel" -- four Carter creations and four re-worked traditionals, with not a threadbare "Frosty The Snowman" nor a hoary "Jingle Bells" among them.

Direct from Tracy's former kitchen in Tigard, Oregon, comes that inital song. "Go Tell the Fox" rekindles the magic of this pairing, what with it's counter-singing, Tracy's violin and Carter's gentle voice and smart lyrics.

A translated Provencal carol by Émile Blémont, "Bring a torch, Jeannette, Isabella" follows. Grammer sings lead here, best backed by Carter on banjo among other instruments. Yes, a banjo holiday song of elegance.

A traditional German offering, "Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming," is third on the playlist, recorded in Tracy's Portland kitchen. Carter and banjo begin, then it's Grammer's turn and soon a harmony appears.

Back to the Tigard kitchen with another recorded Carter original, "Footstep of the Faithful" speaks of spiritual brother and sister in faithful companionship calling out to something larger when necessary. Carter is the primary singer.

"The Ditching Carol" symbolizes the dichotomy between the well off and the poor with a gorgeous dose of Grammer opening the cut on violin and her in the fore of the singing.

"Giddyup Said Santa Claus" is playful fun again from the Tigard kitchen. Reminiscent in rhythm to "Texas Underground" and containing Carter-ian usage of the words "loster' and "winder," the last verse closes with: "...santa's on his night run, I'm ridin shotgun, looks like another good year..." Carter leads off this one despite that song's rifle reference of his positioning.

"Coventry Carol" contains a mention of Herod and seemingly references to baby Jesus. Grammer and Carter trade solo verses plus collaborations.

"Amercan Noel" is a cut that could easily home itself among the playlists alongside any of the contemporary holiday songs that pervade the atmosphere come December...er November...no, make that October. The opening line immediately paints an intriguing portrait, generating a desire to know more: "three wise men ridin' hard through the cold..." which could be Cormac McCarthy-penned instead of Dave Carter. In the last verse, there's a line "...and an old black dog looks on with the rest..." Carter delivers the word 'dog' with such a charm it's as if this has special meaning to him. Do note the frosting on this treat is Grammer playing her not-often-heard mandolin.

This release is an obvious 'get' for Carter and Grammer music archivists -- those who wish to have and hear everything the pair ever recorded. Fans of the pair will also find this an enjoyable release and quite the needed break from what typically comprises the aural onslaught about now. It's that time of the year -- do your friends, relatives and neighbors quite the favor and broaden their holiday music horizon.

Track List:

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