This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 7/06
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Remember the well-worn platitude that you never get a second
chance to make a first impression? Well, the late Dave Carter has
proven such a bromide false.
In re-recording his 1995 release of "snake handlin' man," an
album he later expressed
some degree of regret over, Carter and his musical collaborator,
caretaker and interpreter, Tracy Grammer, have provided fans a new
sound and greater polish to Carter's first recorded musical effort. Not
that there was anything distressing about the original CD--Carter's
rookie release was still better than the majority issued at that
time--but an overload of modesty and a degree of perfectionism
apparently compelled Carter to wish he could make his initial
professional product disappear. With Grammer nursing this project to
transition is now complete.
Two gentle Carter compositions have been added to the original
release, the title cut "seven is the number" and "gas station girl,"
replacing "cowboy singer" and "the river, where she sleeps." The latter
two were both released on previous Carter/Grammer musical communions.
and nature-subject matter of "seven is the number" features Carter on
lead vocals, with Grammer
singing harmony and providing prominent backing
on violin. On "gas station girl," an esoteric love song, Grammer is
featured on fluttering mandolin. Some bluegrass band would be smart to
this one and rev it up.
"snake-handlin' man" is brimstone and fire
oratory, probably evoked from the evangelical religiosity of Carter's
mother. It could be seen as an amalgamation of some of the spirit of
"Don't Tread On Me" and the vocals and rhythm of "Little Liza Jane."
"red (elegy)" includes Grammer on violin backing and a mid-song
solo--no violin appears on the initial release. This cut, as with
"snake handlin' man," prominently displays the early-on virtuosity of
"...now the winner's circle makes the rules in court"Texas Underground" is Carter at his most charming and whimsical, having fun at the expense of used car salesmen, politicians, lawyers, state police, the press, agents of the IRS and others. Grammer's violin replaces the accordian backing from the original.
we get our spin on the wheel of fortune but we always come up short
so we play the game as long as we are able
but heaven's for the blessed, and the rest is just a young girl's fable..."
The bittersweet "long black road into tulsa town" features a most engaging chorus--one that listeners will be repeating:
"...states of misery, states of graceThe 'new' "workin' for jesus" adds Grammer on violin throughout and on harmony vocals in the last two choruses. The original was solely guitar-backed.
trouble and joy on a young man's face
swing low, sweet chariot, take me down
that long, black road into tulsa town..."
"gun-metal eyes" is another example of Carter's early
songwriting equal to anything produced later. One addition here is
Grammer harmonizing on the chorus.
"sarah turn 'round" defines aching melancholy and
also contains Carter's first musical employment of the word 'goddess,' a subject he talked about often. Grammer adds
touches of mandolin and harmonizes on the chorus. These lovely lines are as good as Carter ever produced:
"...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..."
Overall, the new recording is clear and concise, with precise instrumentation and stronger vocals. This
release is different in the ways noted above and displays better
production and more professional recording techniques than the original. Hopefully, this should end the search by those seeking to snag the original as if it were the Holy Grail.
Hearing Carter's voice opening the CD with a previously
unrecorded song, "seven is the number," is spooky and startling. It's
like he never left or has somehow returned. Be prepared, or better yet,
enjoy this reaction if it happens to you.
May Dave Carter rest in greater peace as more of his bountiful gifts have now blessed us.
*** For those with copies of the 1995 release, note in the brief liner notes that the person responsible for the front
cover design of the original "snake-handlin' man" was tg.
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