When I Go
Dave Carter with Tracy Grammar

By Bob Mitchell

The effect of an overall listening to this CD is like enjoying a home cooked meal -very satisfying. The liner notes say that all but one song was recorded in Grammar's kitchen and they have served up some mighty fine dishes!

Instrumentation is sparse but perfect. The focus of this project is the extraordinary lyrics and the occasional delicate blending of two voices. Grammar joins Carter on six cuts and each time, it is a wonderful treat. Additionally, she plays violin, mandolin and guitar. Dave Carter provides the vocals on all selections and provides his own back up with guitar, banjo and bass. Eric Park adds an occasional harmonica and accordion.

I listened to this CD six times before I started this review and each time I heard something new. It is so unusual that I was unable to place it in a category. I checked out Carter's web site and discovered that he calls it "Acoustic American Contemporary Original Folk." Fair enough.

The title cut, "When I Go" is slow, haunting, and beautiful with minimal back up. "Don't Tread On Me" is a protest song in the form of a talking blues. Its theme is a fierce frontier kind of independence. "Kate and The Ghost of Lost Love" is filled with heartfelt emotion. The blending of voices and overlapping verses sung together is simply lovely.

One of the few uptempo tunes is "The River Where She Sleeps," another of my favorites. This is about an optimistic, positive and trusting woman. You wish the world were filled with more people like her. It's a feel-good song that's full of hope. Another of the faster cuts is about a truck named "Little Liza Jane." This feisty tune, filled with clever writing, deals with a long-haul trucker who looses control of his rig but miraculously survives. "Grand Prairie TX Homesick Blues" is about how progress eliminates old and comfortable lifestyles.

The melodies are always memorable and the lyrics consistently powerful. Good writing is an art form that Carter has taken to the next level of musical excellence. Dave Carter is definitely not your typical folk singer and that fact is confirmed by some of his awards: Winner at each of the following - Kerrville New Folk Festival; Nappa Valley Folk Festival Emerging Singer; Wildflower Performing Songwriter Competition and the American Songwriter Magazine Lyric Contest. In addition, he has been named Portland's Songwriters Association's Best Contemporary Writer, Entertainer of the Year and Audience Favorite. When you listen to the CD, it is easy to understand how he achieved such recognition - he's flat out good! I thought about using extended quotations from several songs but decided against it because you need to experience them for yourself. While this is a recording that can be enjoyed as "background music," a listener must be attentive to obtain full musical and intellectual satisfaction. Complete lyrics are available at http://www.teleport.com/~davidc.

This is a good one folks. If Carter gets the right breaks, you will hear a lot more from him. The CD can be ordered from Dave Carter, #140, 25 NW 23rd Pl., Suite 6, Portland OR, 97210.