TRACY GRAMMER – Low Tide (own label TGM180119)

Low TideAlthough Grammer released six albums with the late Dave Carter and a previous solo outing in 2006, this is the first on which she’s both singer and songwriter. Working with longtime guitar accompanist Jim Henry (who co-produced), drummer Lorne Entess, Paul Kochanski on bass and Chris Haynes providing keys and accordion, it offers a personal exploration of love and loss.

It opens with the thumping kick drum beat of ‘Hole’, a candid confession of not being very successful at this love thing with its lines about “shatterlings on the bedroom floor” and how the boys “run through the hole in the palm of my love”. Indeed, romantic disappointment rears its head again on the folksier ‘Daffodil Days’ featuring Grammar on violin and viola, on which the metaphorical flowers wither into “sad yellow mouths” and the garden dries up, and the moodier, glockenspiel-coloured ‘Were You Ever Here’ where “we are always here but you’re never home”.

Things are no sunnier on the r&b shaded ‘Mercy’ with Haynes keys to the fore and Henry on eBow where she’s singing about being too chicken to take the leap because she’s known how “it all falls down, down, down”, sentenced to doom by “the big black gavel judge” in your head.

It’s not all so gloom-ridden. The simply arranged, violin laced gambling-themed ‘Forty-Niner’ acknowledges “fortune is a fickle mistress” but you can still end up with a hundred bucks in your pocket, while folk country, mandolin backed album closer ‘Free’ recounts her journey beyond grief to accept “whatever comes will be okay” and the easy rolling country of “Good Life” is sung in the voice of her late father looking back on his life, with all its regrets, dreams, mistakes, lessons and joys, and deciding it was worth the ride.

Of course, not all determination to make the most of things are necessarily positive, as evidenced by ‘The Mark’, a southern bluesy rock number co-penned with Henry and Kate Cell that has Cain declaring his intention to reap seeds sown because there’s “no world to come” and “heaven’s right here”.

The first of the remaining two tracks has her revisiting the title number of her 2004 solo debut EP release, ‘The Verdant Mile’, a eulogy for Carter and her first songwriting credit, here given a punchier arrangement that eschews the original’s uptempo acoustic strum for a slightly moodier approach with glockenspiel, a persistent drumbeat and a vocal delivery reminiscent of Gretchen Peters. The other, which follows directly on, is a cover of a classic song by one of her major influences, a strings-enrobed version of Kate Bush’s gloriously optimistic and uplifting ‘Cloudbursting’, a number chosen, one assumes, to underscore her breaking free of grief and self-doubt. Ignore the ebbing associations of the album title, far from beached, this finds Grammer in full flow.

Mike Davies

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Artist’s website:www.tracygrammer.com

‘Hole’ – live:

THE KENNEDYS – West (Self-Released TK1211)

The-Kennedys-WestIn recent weeks, I’ve heard several artists who have reminded me of the late great John Stewart, making me think that definite reissue series or box set is well overdue. The thought comes to mind again listening to this latest offering from New Yorkers Pete and Maura Kennedy, a UK and Ireland only release to celebrate their 20th anniversary. Not because they sound remotely like Stewart, but because they have included a cover of one of his classic songs, ‘The Queen of Hollywood High’, albeit Maura giving it a rather sweeter, poppier treatment than the rockier, rougher-voiced original.

But then sweet and poppy pretty much epitomises the duo’s approach to their roots country music, thought the fact they’re not raw or raunchy doesn’t mean they’re middle of the road (in the worst Nashville sense), rather than their melodies are go down easy, leading to much tapping of feet. As per the title, the album is, as the press release states, “an evocative picture of the duo’s two decades of travel down the highways and byways of America”, conjured here in the old time gospel stomp of ‘Bodhisattva Blues’, ‘Locket’ with its Buddy Holly cascades, the rock ‘n’ roll choogling ‘Travel Day Blues’ (which references Dot Love, the Mississippi Blind Boys and Nat King Cole), the bluegrass and banjo shades of ‘Elegy’ (a tribute to the late “post-modern mythic American folk music’ singer Dave Carter) and the early Johnny Cash meets the Kingston Trio feel of ‘Southern Jumbo’ and its ode to cooking and singing.

There’s no brooding clouds over their landscape, indeed on the sleeve notes to the gently jogging ‘Jubilee Time’ they state that they decided the songs would be ‘uplifting, encouraging and hopefully empowering, acknowledging the dark but holding out a spark.’ The call and response ‘Sisters of the Road’, which features Tracy Grammar (Dave Carter’s former singing partner) among the back up harmonies, and Pete’s love song to his wife, ‘Good, Better, Best’, in the style of the Everlys, are further testament.

There’s strong folk influences here too in two traditional-coloured, numbers, the nature-themed ‘Signs’ and ‘Black Snake, White Snake’, an adaptation of a short story by the poet B.D.Love about two sister snakes who shift to female form and one you could hear Steeleye Span covering. At which point, I should note that Maura will further exploring the lyrics of Love on her own upcoming solo album, ‘Villanelle’ (Pete has his own solo album, ‘Heart of Gotham’, due too). Of course, you can’t get away without some Byrdsian 12 string jangles, here perfectly embodied in ‘Perfect Love’, a new number penned for them by John Wicks, former frontman of the criminally undervalued British 80s power-pop outfit The Records. It’s not an album to shake the foundations or push borders, but if you enjoy good melodies, fine singing and thoughtful songs, that’s how the West was won.

Mike Davies

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Artists’ website: http://www.kennedysmusic.com/

Girl From Golden – the official video

davecarterWhen I heard from my friend, Darryl Purpose that he was releasing new material by one of my favourite singer-songwriters, the greatly missed Dave Carter (August 13, 1952 – July 19, 2002) my heart started thumping in anticipation of what it could be.

Joan Baez, who was on tour with with Dave in 2002 (with Tracy Grammer, Carter’s other half of the the duo) said of Dave, “There is a special gift for writing songs that are available to other people, and Dave’s songs are very available to me. It’s a kind of genius, you know, and Dylan has the biggest case of it. But I hear it in Dave’s songs, too”.

For me, Carter’s body of work encapsulate the very essence of storytelling and plays out in the minds eye like a visual movie, blessing each song with a sense of spirituality that is rooted in the Southern American country tradition.

Darryl Purpose in DenhamThe story goes that, during the planning stages of Darryl Purpose’s “Next Time Around” album Darryl went to visit Tracy Grammer to talk about what “Dave Carter song” he might like to sing on his new album. After listening to Darryl deliberate on the possibility of this song or that song from the back catologue, Tracy said, ‘Do you want to sing an old Dave song, or would you rather have a new Dave song?’ And so, ‘Girl From Golden‘, a previously unrecorded Dave Carter song became a big part of Darryl’s new project.

A word from Darryl Purpose, “I’ve known Grace X. Oliver since she was a small girl, and there was always something about her. Everyone who met her knew – even back in single digits – said that she was an old soul with a new mystique. Something special. And the fact that she was Dave Carter’s niece increased the mystique and expectations even more. Now Grace is eighteen years old and heading out this month to start film studies at Ithaca. But in the meantime she managed to write, direct, and film the video of my version of Dave Carter’s Girl From Golden”.

Darryl Purpose sings this previously unrecorded song by Dave Carter. Backing vocals by Tracy Grammer. Recorded at Blue Rock Studios in Wimberley TX.

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Darren Beech August 2014

David Francey release his new CD Late Edition

David Francey – from carpenter to songwriter. Since leaving the construction business to record the album Torn Screen Door in 1999, Scottish-born Canadian David Francey is now recognized as one of today’s finest singer-songwriters. Francey’s straightforward songs tell honest stories of real people and real places. Poetic perception and a keen eye for the heart of the matter are trademarks of Francey and his music. His songs and stories are a direct connection for audiences seeking depth and meaning in the day-to-day.

David has released nine CDs to date. His most recent, Late Edition, has garnered much praise receiving two Canadian Folk Music nominations. A three time JUNO award winner David Francey has also had the honour of receiving the prestigious SOCAN Folk Music Award. In the last few years he took home the Grand Prize in both the International Acoustic Music Awards and in the Folk category for the John Lennon Songwriting Awards.

David Francey was born in 1954 in Ayrshire, Scotland where he got his first taste of the working life as a paperboy. At the age of ten he was devouring the newspapers he delivered, establishing a life-long interest in politics and world events while developing the social conscience that forms the backdrop to his songs. David was twelve when he and his family moved to Toronto. His love of the landscape, the history and the people of his adopted country can be traced back to family weekend drives exploring Southern Ontario.

Music played a large part in these family outings. The Franceys sang traditional Scottish tunes as they drove through the Canadian countryside. David’s dad and sister sang melody while David and his mother sang harmonies. David’s attachment to Canada grew with his travels. He hitchhiked across the country three times and then thumbed his way to the Yukon. This attachment surfaces in his songs of rail lines, farms and the St. Lawrence Seaway. His understanding of the people grew as he worked in Toronto train yards, in the Yukon bush and in construction in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.

In concert David Francey is a singer and a storyteller. His wry humour and astute observations combined with his open-hearted singing style have earned him a loyal following. Amongst the many artists who have recorded David Francey songs are The Del McCoury Band, Tracy Grammer, The Rankin Family, James Keelaghan, Raylene Rankin, Harvey Reid,

“David Francey’s songs are lean, whippet-like creations, a bit like the man himself. With not one wasted word or superfluous line he takes the everyday, often mundane business of living and elevates it into something infinitely more noble and memorable, the mark of a truly gifted songwriter.” Eric Bogle

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Artist web link: http://www.davidfrancey.com/index.html