A Review of the Tracy Grammer CD
"Book of Sparrows"

"Book of Sparrows"
Tracy Grammer

Copyright 2007
Tracy Grammer Music
P.O. Box 2125
Amherst, MA 01004

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 11/07
"Kevin and Maxine's Celtic & Folk Reviews"
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Musicians perform cover songs for many reasons. Sometimes, it's a simple matter of liking a certain song. Other times, it's admiring someone's song but also feeling an emotional attachment to it -- the music and/or words having a connection in the life of the re-performer. Once in a while, it's hearing in one's head how to add a 'personal signature' to a song that proves irresistable.

It's impossible to determine particular motivation so let's just say Tracy Grammer's latest -- "Book Of Sparrows" -- gracefully furthers her status as one of folk music's finest for here she makes the songs of others her very own.

Tom Russell's "Blue Wing" opens the release. A tale of a down-and-outer kicking around up and down the west coast, Grammer's singing moves the tale along reaching, aided by Jim Henry, the harmony chorus that instills the emotion:

"...It's dark in here; can't see the sky
But I look at this blue wing and I close my eyes
And I fly away beyond these walls
Up above the clouds where the rain don't fall
On a poor man's dreams..."

Label this one a 'dreamer' cut, someone with little if anything to live for in the present using his tattoo in reminiscing of better times and days and pondering what might have been.

About Corporal Travis John Bradach-Nall, one of the first soldiers from Oregon to die In Iraq, Kate Power's wistful "Travis John" is most striking with lyrics that act as if a chorus: "...I am a boy, full of promise, full of freedom..." finally concluding with "I was a boy, full of promise, full of freedom; and now the joy Is dead and done, I am gone." This understated offering of bereavement reaches to the heart of loss.

"The Waking Hour" continues the theme of forfeiture and sadness. One of David Francey's finest, it details the thoughts of acceptance yet regret about falling short and failing in pairing. The telling chorus:
"...I know love, I've seen love's face
I understand its sorrow
For every love I've ever had
Has always met tomorrow
Though I am Wednesday's child of woe
I try not to be ungrateful
But I was born at midnight black
With a heart that can be hateful..."

Dave Carter's "Lord Of The Buffalo" is a dreamscape, about looking for a place to fit in and just allowed to be as is, versus the reality one usually faces.
"...There's an endless plain
Beyond the curtain of the pouring rain
Where the golden prairie rolls forever
And the tall grass grows
Bitter wind blowing high and wild
Have mercy on your wayward child
In search of an age ago..."

Carter's "Gypsy Rose" renders different possibilities of meaning. It is about an uncontainable spirit -- "...My love is like a gypsy rose, wild is the only way he grows, out where the sweet July winds blow, he blooms over on yonder..." -- but in toto, it brings to mind the possibility of Carter presciently writing of his own passing and a relationship he left behind.
"...So I built a house to keep him in
Guarded him from the sun and wind
But in the autumn (he grew thin
In winter, he withered

Now it's been thirty years and three
Every night he calls to me
And for as long as I shall be
I know I'll follow..."
"Gypsy Rose" is followed by and paired with Paul Simon's "April Come She Will" -- another song of fleeting love and destined departure.

Jackson Browne's vulnerable "In The Shape Of A Heart" concludes the release. One of the most humanistic of songs about intimate relationships, it's a look back at the chaotic mystery of love, longing and reciprocity, coupled with the incapacity to remain linked:
"...You keep it up
You try so hard
To keep a life from coming apart
And never know
What breaches and faults are concealed
In the shape of a heart..."

Longing for difference yet also connectedness, for independence but not separateness, wishing at times to be someone or somewhere else, with harmony just maybe over the next rise -- all describe the collective, interlocking themes of the music in "Book Of Sparrows."

Yes, the Flower of Avalon continues as pollinator, both for herself with this release but also those in her musical arc, leaving no doubt these are 'her' songs, her way and making us better for it.

Track List:

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