Sunday, April 15, 2012

Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer – Little Blue Egg

Little Blue Egg
Red House Records

Dave Carter was already into his mid-40s when he – and partner Tracy Grammer, who played violin and sang harmony – suddenly emerged in 1998 with an album called When I Go, an album which served notice that Dave was one of the most compelling and enigmatic singer-songwriters of our time. Then, after two more superb albums and concert and festival tours that established Dave and Tracy at the front ranks of the contemporary folk scene, Dave died suddenly in 2002 of a massive coronary, just weeks before his 50th birthday.

Those three albums by Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer, and a fourth, Seven is the Number, his final recordings, released posthumously, are among the most essential folk-rooted recordings of recent years.

Recently, Tracy discovered some demos recorded in their home studio between 1997 and 2002 and chose 11 of the songs – 10 of Dave’s and a superb version of “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key,” lyrics by Woody Guthrie set to music by Billy Bragg for the Mermaid Avenue project – for Little Blue Egg, another most essential addition to Dave and Tracy’s discography.

Of the 10 songs written by Dave, I first heard three – “Hard to Make It,” “Any Way I Do” and “Gypsy Rose” – on Tracy’s excellent 2005 solo album, Flower of Avalon. The rest are new to me.

Among this album’s highlights are “Gypsy Rose,” a beautiful, poetic love song; “Cross of Jesus,” which describes three very different people – two in the third-person, one in the first-person – united by the crosses they wear and the sincerity with which they live their lives; and “September Sea,” in which Dave seems to have a prescient understanding that his life would be short and that Tracy would keep his flame alive.

Dave Carter is one of those rare songwriters whose work continues to reveal more with repeated listening over many years. The songs on Little Blue Egg are a welcome addition to his canon.

--Mike Regenstreif

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