Okay, I'm off the dime timewise on this one. It's way past Christmas, but, hey!, there's a lot of cold weather all over the States in February and March, so it ain't all that out of place, not really, especially not for a disc this fresh. Think of it as a start on next year's holidays.
Dave Carter passed away suddenly in 2002, I'm sad to inform the audience, but he'd been playing with Tracy Grammer for a while, and the duet was on the ascendant. After three well-received discs and a tour with Joan Baez, a hardware store chain in the Pacific Northwest commissioned a series of holiday compositions as giveaways for customers. They went over well, and this CD illustrates why. The cuts were never really meant as a concept anthology but worked so great when aggregated that a compendium was formed anyway.
Tracy Grammer has a very sweet and pure voice—one in which it's not hard to see why Baez was captivated—while Dave Carter sang a highly complementary soft male counterpart and solo. American Noel isn't your usual Christmas album. It is, in fact, rather singular, as I've never heard one quite like it, as compatible to kids as adults, and uncomplicated but mesmerizing for its almost plainsong approach mixed with bright Great Plains airs (except for Giddyup Santa Claus which is fun and modern). The disc is quintessentially American despite the presence of well-known trad European numbers, now transmatrixed to our shores.
Nor is the traditional American sense imbuing it the entire matter of interest but rather something entirely different, of the duo themselves, making for a unique addition to an Xmas catalogue otherwise too familiar during the Yuletide. I can't picture anyone hearing American Noel not being struck at how singular it is, as listenable any time of the year as during the holidays. Beyond the vocals, Grammer plays a beautiful violin and Carter was very adept on the guitar, making for twice the appeal and quadruple the astonishment. Hearing this, I can well guess what the rest of their work is like and find it a tragedy that such a fine talent as Carter's is no longer among us.
Oh, and I just now found I was doubly off the dime: when I went to catch Bernie Pearl in concert the other day (reviewed here), the Boulevard Music flier informed me that Grammer had been there the previous month. That's a gig I would've liked to have caught.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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