[FM] review of the Tracy Grammer CD "Flower Of Avalon"
John Q Public
johnqpublic at ebold.com
Thu Apr 28 21:20:50 EDT 2005
Below is my review of the Tracy Grammer CD "Flower Of Avalon."
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"Flower Of Avalon"
by Tracy Grammer
Signature Sounds Recordings - SIG 1292
P.O. Box 106
Whately, MA 01093
This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 4/05
"Kevin's Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
Linguists don't know it yet but another language is sorrowfully on its
decline--that being Carterian. To counter this will require drastic action.
Carterian is literate yet esoteric, a resurrection of the ancient and the
discarded commingled into a brew of the current, with sometimes a pinch of
old Sumerian. Sadly, it's unlikely we will ever experience such a joyous
Named for its proprietor, the late Dave Carter, a select few have merrily
chosen to embrace it, usually voicing themselves in luminous and melodic
song. These adherents will fight its extinction.
But the last chapter, "Flower Of Avalon," has now been written, with Tracy
Grammer as presenter and interpreter.
Revealing nine new Carter compositions, plus one other song, Grammer's
release opens with the eerie "Shadows Of Evangeline." Impossible to
interpret, it seems like stream of consciousness spookiness elevated by
being descriptive subject matter filtered through Dave Carter's expressive
mind. Could it be an updated coda to the myth surrounding the Henry
Wadsworth Longfellow "Evangeline" poem which features separated Acadian
lovers momentarily reunited prior to their deaths?
"Gypsy Rose" has all the trimmings necessary to be a classic country pop
music crossover. Are you reading this Faith Hill, Shania Twain or maybe
even The Dixie Chicks?
The bluegrassy "Laughlin Boy," a William Jolliff poem set to a traditional
tune, shows that bravery can be demonstrated through actions other than by
going off and killing others.
"Hard To Make It" presents a most elegant, razorsharp description of a
"...dandy don, he's a velvet hand
he's my silent partner, he's the inside man
holds me shakin through the shotgun dawn and he
keeps me walkin down this road I'm on..."
Despite pangs of empathy, a prospective john, overcome by reality, moves on:
"...it's dust to ashes and wings to clay and I
check my wallet as we pull away, 'cause it's
hard to make it in this world today"
"Hey Ho" and "Mother I Climbed" follow, demonstrating Carter's unsurpassed
ability to serenely excoriate the oh-so-deserving. Quiet songs that cut a
wide swath, in "Hey Ho," he critiques the forces that promote the values of
rampant consumerism, the purchase of war toys and abusive child labor and,
in "Mother I Climbed," he presents the emptiness encountered in a search
for meaning via traditional pathways.
Carter possessed such a light touch with his velvet sledgehammer. So much
so that recipients seldom knew they were hit, let alone what hit them.
Bringing to mind some of the works of Shakespeare, "Preston Miller" is a
story song of lust, illegitimacy, betrayal and death whose visual clarity
makes it a strong candidate for a music video.
Topping the list of torturous decline-and-loss-of-love songs is "Winter
When He Goes." Check the opening lines:
"as the sun is to the city
in the endless weeping winter
so is joy to me, and pity
when he leaves me, falsely tender..."
It continues later:
"...as a woman of heart and lenience
I make liberal with my pardons
I am generous with my kindness
he, with smiles and exultations
though he binds his wounds in silence
I my own in practiced patience..."
"Phantom Doll" is Dave Carter playful and and jazzy. The only thing missing
is Grammer scat singing. Dedicated to musicians bassist Byron Isaacs and
drummer/percussionist George Javori, this cut is delightfully different
from what one might expect.
Continuing the tradition of closing with a quiet, contemplative song (see
"Farewell To Bitteroot Valley on "Tanglewood Tree" and "Gentle Soldier Of
My Soul" on "Drum Hat Buddha") "Any Way I Do" concludes the release. In a
quirky sense, it is Carter's self-penned epitaph and so fitting.
Long time fans will note longer than usual songs here with the briefest
inclusion lasting a few ticks over three and a half minutes. Three of the
cuts are either close to five minutes or over.
The music of Grammer and Carter best exemplify amazing grace, the spirit,
not the song. Every music store should have a stand alone section labeled
AMAZING GRACE, with but one offering: the music of Tracy Grammer and Dave
As the frontperson for the departed Carter, Tracy Grammer is all that can
be hoped for. Dedicated to keeping the music of Dave Carter alive, Grammer
has fulfilled this promise. Her interpretations and singing here are so
silky smooth and fitting that it is difficult to imagine anyone else
performing even close to comparable versions. She is that good.
Our duty now is to assume the role of musical folklorist, being Alan
Lomax-like in preventing the disappearance of Carterian. Grammer has done
and is continuing to do her part--the rest is up to us to continue reaching
across the long black veil and keeping this beatific beauty alive.
Grammer, on vocals, acoustic guitar and violin, is backed by John Jennings
on vocals, electric bass, acoustic, tenor and electric guitar; Mike Rivard
on upright, bowed and electric bass; Lorne Entress on drums and percussion;
Jim Henry on vocals, mandolin, dobro, electric, acoustic and baritone
guitar; John Carroll on piano and Hammond B3 organ; Rob Schnell on udu and
conga; Bob Stark on tambourine and guiro; Clark Bondy on clarinet and the
'gospel chorus of herself, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jon Carroll and Jim Henry.
* Shadow of Evangeline (3:55)
* Gypsy Rose (5:02)
* Laughlin Boy (4:23) - William Joliff
* Hard To Make It (3:35)
* Hey Ho (3:46)
* Mother, I Climbed (5:45)
* Preston Miller (4:39)
* Winter When He Goes (4:59)
* Phantom Doll (4:05)
* Any Way I Do (4:40)
All songs written by Dave Carter, except as noted.
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