This album of posthumous songs and performance by Dave Carter – with musical partner Tracy Grammer - has brought a significant folk talent to my attention, having missed out in his lifetime where he had been, and still is, championed as a songwriter by Joan Baez as well as had his songs recorded by the likes of Chris Smither [Crocodile Man], and tribute songs written about Carter by Mary Chapin Carpenter and Mary Gauthier amonst many others.
The story of these songs’ discovery is special: they were found in the basement of the pair’s home recording studio, eight years after Carter’s death - songs that had been left off other recordings. Not a single track has the sound of a cast-off and therefore attest to the absolute quality of those already recorded as well as the difficult process of selection when there is such a wealth of material. And as home recordings they have an intimate and immediate quality.
The songs are all ‘traditional’ in their sound, a mix of classic folk and Americana, with their storytelling reflecting the richness of the lyricism. A cover of the Guthrie/Bragg song Way Over Yonder in a Minor Key is one of the more traditional sounding, beautifully song by the alternating voices of Carter and Grammer until they then harmonise on the chorus, with simple banjo and acoustic guitar by Carter and sweet fiddle by Grammer. Hard To Make It tells a highly poetic narrative of a tough life and has the simple quality of performance and storytelling reminiscent of Devendra Banhart. Cross of Jesus has the bright country echo of Drug Store Truck Driving Man. Carter’s excellent singing voice is highlighted on the fine song Any Way I Do.
There are eleven ‘discarded’ tracks in all and it is the definite treasure trove other reviews have labelled them, an album that really does deserve attention for its outstanding quality, whatever the circumstances of its construction.