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Tanglewood Tree

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Album Review

Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer's follow-up to their acclaimed 1998 debut, Tanglewood Tree is a truly potent mix of outstanding country harmonies, exemplary musicianship, and complex narratives. The compositions here provide ample evidence of Carter's much deserved reputation in folk circles as one of the most talented singer/songwriters, as he colors an amazingly rich rural landscape, mixing elements of Native American mysticism with tales of the paradoxes of love and the musings of people in transition, always treating his characters with an honest, understated dignity. Featuring a much fuller sound than their previous record When I Go, Carter and Grammer employ session men and the use of a professional studio for the first time, with the results being a texturally rich collaboration that perfectly showcase Carter's pleasant finger-picking guitar style, as well as his banjo and Hammond organ flourishes. Tracy Grammer plays a larger role than on previous releases, as she sings lead on four tracks in addition to adding beautiful violin and mandolin accompaniment. The sunny, gently rolling "Happytown (All Right With Me)" is one of the more unabashedly melodic pieces, with each vocal turn yielding pure folk-pop bliss. Finger-picked guitar ballads, like "Farewall to Saint Dolores" or the bittersweet "Walking Away From Caroline," reveal a songwriter who is easily adept at avoiding the more maudlin tendencies of many of his contemporaries. The wit and humor in Carter's songwriting can almost be overshadowed by the starkness in tales like "Cat-Eye Willie Claims His Lover," a tragic account of a man who wins a woman in a card game and ends up being killed by her. Still, Carter creates lighter moments with the lyrical and melodic nod to the "Wabash Cannonball" in "Hey Conductor" and lifts a well-placed Bo Diddley riff in "Crocodile Man." Where Carter's voice falls somewhere between Vic Chesnutt and Garth Brooks, Grammer, like a less visceral Lucinda Williams, is the perfect complement; neither are forceful vocalists but both are altogether appropriate for the material. Overall, this is truly a modern folk classic, as Carter's unique approach to songwriting and the musical and vocal contributions of Grammer combine to make what should be remembered as a landmark album in contemporary folk music.

Customer Reviews

You can't find better folk music than this

On a lark my wife and I attended an acoustic concert in an old church converted to a yoga studio featuring a folk duo we'd never heard of - Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer. Within the first few notes I was hooked. The depth of the lyrics, the soul-grabbing harmonies, and the effortless beauty of their performance remains the greatest night of live music I've ever encountered. Luckily, all this comes through on their studio albums - buy every one and you won't be disappointed. It's hard to name a favorite album or song, because each has its own special mood and repeated listening just makes them better.

Amazing song writing!

I'm amazed I'm only the second reviewer on iTunes. This is a tremendous recording - one that I go back to time and time again. The most amazing thing is the songwriting. Haunting lyrics, clever turns of phrase. I can't say enough about this recording. Highly recommended if you have any appreciation for folk or bluegrass or carefully crafted songs. I read Tracy's account of Dave's death. Tragic, beautiful, haunting. Just like his songwriting.

Transcending Talent

Dave Carter and Tracy Grammar were an amazing duo. I saw them perform live several times at my college. Dave's lyrics in conjunction with Tracy's voice are hypnotically beautiful. Dave was a soft-spoken man and very kind in person. I was lucky enough to share a very enjoyable conversation with him. He was a very genuine person and deserves to be recognized for his musical contributions. His music has always spoken to me and it always makes me sad that more people are not aware of what this man had to offer. I encourage you to check out what "wikipedia" has to say about him as their description is very generous and more elegantly worded than my description. Also, I encourage you to treat yourself to his songs. If you enjoy classic rock, country, or folk music, then you will like what you hear.

Tanglewood Tree, Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer
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Customer Ratings