Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer : Seven Is The Number

Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer : Seven Is The Number

(2006 Tracy Grammer)

I hadn’t heard about Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer at all until a few weeks ago, when the album was recommended to me by iTunes (of all things, oh well, at least Apple is good for something). As (to my knowledge) it isn’t available on CD anymore, I had to make do with downloading it, which I normally try to avoid if at all possible as I greatly prefer CD’s/LP’s, old-fashioned as I am. They were only active together from 1998 up to his death at the too-early age of 49 back in 2002, but Tracy Grammer released Seven is The Number after his death and has by now found a home at Red House Records, as always one of the finest purveyors of fine Folk albums so that is a nice fit. In US American Folk circles they achieved quite a bit of renown and went on tour with John Baez in 2002 – but all of that hadn’t reached me, but better late than never.

If you, like I was, are new to their music, the album opener and title track is a good pointer to what you can expect, both lyrically and musically. Instead of some dumb 666 Satan crap as you find on stupid rock albums here seven is the number for mankind with all its weak and strong points that clearly was/is of great concern to them. I am not sure of there’s some direct lyrical connection to some religious or spiritual belief or work, from what I read on their Wikipedia page Dave Carter was very much influenced by spiritual and mystical works, so that might be the case. The track is also rather short, and therefore almost seems like a statement of intent to me.

The sound throughout the album is airy and light, (which isn’t meant in a derogatory way at all) and dominated by Carter’s soft, gentle voice, with him playing the guitar and doing most of the lead vocals with Tracy Grammer mainly playing the violin – very fine indeed, as on, what is possibly the most melancholic song on the album, Red (Elegy), although a certain downbeat, sad feeling is evident on most of the songs on the album. Pretty much the only exception being the Hillbilly sounds of Texas Underground, a song possibly not meant to be taken too seriously, about a daytime nightmare, the devil and ‘… a smokin’ little band with a Country sound…’, done in the Carter/Grammer way as Carter most definitely didn’t possess any of Steve Earle’s raucous tough guy image. With regards to the possible involvement of other musicians I can’t really be certain, as I haven’t got a booklet and so am short on more background information, but there’s various other instruments to be heard, such as the mandolin on Gas Station Girl.

Instantly my favorite track became The Promised Land (it also went straight onto my Desert Island Playlist). It’s slightly more uptempo than most of the other songs on the album and a tune that found its way straight into my heart and refuses to get out. That haunting organ in the background is just too beautiful. Lyrically, it’s touching story about people on the fringes of the American society ‘I’m just doing what I do best, running with the devil and the dispossessed, waiting on a mission trying to make a plan, chasing my angel through the promised land’. The lovely following Hey Tonya is a tad more relaxed and also permeated with a touch of sadness. Gas Station Girl was actually the first song I heard of theirs, I couldn’t resist checking out a song with a title like that, could I? Glad I did though, as it’s a excellent, relaxed Country waltz, complete with mandolin, lyrics about long interstate drives and ‘the lips of a gas station girl’ – (classic theme, isn’t it).

Words fail me how to adequately describe the beauty of next track Long Black Road Into Tulsa Town, it’s unremarkable enough stylistically, just another slow Folk ballad, but that chorus is just heavenly, full of emotion, meaning and, for me at least, it’s impossible to be utterly captivated by lines like ‘… states of misery, states of grace, trouble and joy on a young man’s face, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, take me down that long black road into Tulsa Town…’. Wonderful.

Working For Jesus is a gorgeous tune too, it’s about a couple probably not looking eye to eye when it comes to the religious beliefs. Gun Metal Eyes is yet another song made that good by the story being told about an Indian meeting his fate in a confrontation with a company of loggers and the police – very poetic from start to finish and a new spin on the old story of confrontation between white people and Native Indians, ending as you would expect.

One doesn’t have to think too hard about who Carter and Grammer’s sympathize with, and it’s also got a nice Southwestern touch which is very well suited to the song’s theme. The album closes with Sarah Turn ‘Round of which I can’t say much more than that it’s beautiful, it sounds rather optimistic and sunny, in contrast to most other songs on Seven is The Number.

As I said before, the album isn’t exactly easy to come by, but everybody into music steeped in 60’s Folk traditions (I am more than once reminded of Arlo Guthrie’s work), should definitely check this very fine album out. Let Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer calm your soul and make your day a better one – at least for the 47 minutes Seven Is the Number lasts and most probably even longer than that.

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John Wayne Birthplace

Marion Robert Morrison, better known as John Wayne, was born in this house in Winterset, Iowa on May 26, 1907. Like most boys I devoured his classic Westerns as a child. When growing up, I lost interest in his films and the genre altogether and was also troubled by his political views (although I have to admit I never really made any effort to get a very informed view on them). But in the last few years I have made an effort to build a collection of the best Westerns on DVD and found (rather unsurprisingly), that quite a few of them have got him in them. My favorite is possibly his last film The Shootist, although that’s probably not in accordance with most people’s view, but I liked it a whole lot, both with regard to the film’s message and also because the films melancholic mood and its extremely beautiful photography.

John Wayne Birthplace

The American Gothic House, Eldon, Iowa

The American Gothic house is located in the small town of Eldon in southern Iowa. Regionalist painter Grant Wood saw it on a visit to Eldon in 1930 when he visited a friend called Edward Rowan who had started an art gallery and school in the town. It was built in 1881 and today is occupied by an old lady who (hopefully for her) apparently has gotten used to the stream of tourists coming to take photos of and in front of the house. The American Gothic House Center is offering a service to take your photo complete in a dress modelled on the one shown in the pointing, dungarees and a fork – I opted to take a photo of the house only. As you would expect, the exhibition in the Center is interesting too, filling in a lot of background knowledge about Grant Wood and the town of Eldon, I enjoyed my visit very much, and the town of Eldon is also lovely, small and rural – very much my kind of town.

American Gothic House, Eldon, IA

American Gothic House Center, Eldon, IA