Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer: American Noel

Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer

American Noel

It’s no easy task to write an original Christmas song. All those years of heritage and tradition, all those ways of approaching the mystery, all the memories.... nonetheless, people do keep taking their chances with it, and that is, after all, how the timeless and favorite holiday songs came to be in the first place.

The eight tracks on this disc, four originals by Dave Carter, and four traditional carols -- wee never meant to hang together as a holiday album. but yet they do, from Carter’s mountain style opener, Go Tell the Fox, through the thoughtful ending of American Noel. The recordings came about when the president of a national hardware chain decided, one year, to give his workers the gift of music for Christmas. Singers and songwriters from around the Pacific Northwest were asked to be part of the project. Carter and Grammer, in fact, were invited back for three years running, from 1999 through 2001. Ted Quanckenbush, who had asked them to join in the first place, kept track of the master tapes, and so this project, the only holiday songs the duo ever recorded, was possible.

Dave Carter died unexpectedly in 2002, while the duo were rising to the top of the American folk music scene, with Carter’s thought provoking and often funny lyrics and Grammer’s lovely voice, fine violin playing, and top notch production skills. His gifts for writing songs which sound both timely and timeless, and her gifts for singing both lead and harmony, and adding the right notes musically and in framing the songs in production, are present in this project.

It could be seen as meditation on the gifts of winter. Santa picks up a surprised hitchhiker on his Christmas Eve trips, when “Christmas is a dream away.” The fox, the widow, the farmer, the person lost in the storm, are meant to hear the news of Jesus’ birth, and to run with lights to the stable. They take time to contemplate the miracle through the carols,, and remind each other to share the gifts. The traditional Coventry Carol, done with a bluegrass twist, and Carter’s Footsteps of the Faithful remind us that we’re still seeking, and still finding, and still celebrating those gifts.

American Noel is a fine addition to the holiday music scene, and it’s music that should not be kept just to America, or just to the holidays, either. Many of the tracks were recorded in Grammer’s kitchen, and they all share that feeling of welcoming connection.

you may also like to see

Music Road: Gretchen Peters: Northern Lights

Music Road: now playing: Kathy Mattea: Mary Did You Know? video

Music Road: listening to Christmas

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