July 9, 2012

"You know they've got a helluva band"

There are many musicians who have left us way too soon. Most of us talk about the "Big J's"--Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, John Lennon. In recent months, Whitney Houston. There are others, in musical genres I don't pay much attention to. Tupac Shakur, for instance. Biggie Smalls.

Then there are those who nobody hears about, but when you look at what they did in their short time on earth you know a wonderful light has left us. 

Such a person was Dave Carter, folk singer. I had never heard of him before he came up on one of my Pandora stations--I believe it was my Emmylou Harris station. At any rate, I didn't know he or his partner, Tracy Grammer, from Adam's off ox. But his lyrics instantly captivated me. When you're in the presence of a master wordsmith, you know it. 

This is one of my favorite Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer tunes. It's not a real video as such; it's merely the CD cover art as background to the song, "41 Thunderer." But oh, what a song. You have to listen to it several times for the depth of the lyrics to really sink in, and I'm still finding delightful little asides and nuances, even after hearing this song dozens of times.


Here are samples of the verses: 

In fair silver city on the blind side of fate 
I grew up to manhood on the narrow and straight 
But prideful I stumbled, and foolish I fell 
In the silken fine trammels of a cruel Yankee belle 

 Slender and wicked, flame in her eyes 
Pearl white and nickel round the curve of her thighs 
Smooth as dry whiskey, but cold to caress 
She slid like a viper from her tooled leather dress
Oh forty-one thunderer, colt repeater 
She's a silver-tongued wonder and a mean mistreater 
Six-eyed delilah, brazen and bold 
Now it's stand and deliver, fire in the hole 
Forty-one thunderer turn loose of my soul

These gorgeous lyrics ("silken fine trammels," "smooth as dry whiskey"--poetry. Absolute poetry) are matched with Tracy Grammer's wonderful violin work. She produces a fiery, gritty solo that for my money is almost as good as David Gilmour's spectacular lead guitar in "Comfortably Numb." I wasn't sure if I liked this song at first, but after repeated listenings I wouldn't trade it for anything. 

Dave Carter died ten years ago. What a loss. If there's any justice, he's with the Helluva Band, teaching Jimi Hendrix a thing or two about subtlety.

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