Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Tracy Grammer at the Jammin Java on September 17, 2003 - Erik Balkey opens, and Eliot Bronson (guitar and vocals) and We're About Nine (mostly vocals) accompany Tracy Grammer
We're About Nine are singing back up vocals with Tracy during the sound check as we walk into the Jammin Java. And Mary Sue Twohy and Rick and Audrey, performers we've seen again just recently, are like us, early audience for this show. I should ask Rick if h's going to tell Tracy he wrote a song sort of about her, inspired by her courage. I don't ask him, so I don't know if he did or not, but if he doesn't tell her tonight, he will someday. Mary Sue Twohy's friend tells us about a stage he built in his house in Washington DC, so he can host house concerts. He loves Folk in the Attic (now on hiatus for house renovations) , and plans to visit other local house concerts. And he promises to add us his list for his concert series.
Erik Balkey's songs include
Give Love, Amen from his new EP
Miles Roll, about a truck driver - some songs are true and some are factual. Erik met a truck driver in Tennessee who inspired this song.
I've Got Baseball in my Blood - Erik met up and coming female rock singer in LA, who was really into the LA music scene poised to make it big who said "do you ever feel you are doing just what you are meant to be doing?" Erik's not into the LA rock scene, but in this song he sings of the dream probably most young boys have - including a great line "this baseball bum is stealing home"
"I tried to be your umbrella...but I'm not waterproof" is a line from a song Erik co-wrote
How Does this Poem End? - Erik was staying with Eliot Bronson in Western Massachusetts. They decided to open a book, put a finger on the page, and try to write a song around whatever phrase they found. The "assignment" was "how does this poem end". While Eliot went off and did something else for an hour Erik wrote this song, which expounds on this question with another question. Later with Eliot's support, Erik put the finishing touches on this song.
God's Poet Now - Erik and We're about Nine heard Crocodile Man on the radio a few years ago, and like me, like so many of us, Erik played and replayed the Tanglewood Tree CD. Erik tells us that he was driving home from a gig on July 19, 2002 when he heard that we all lost Dave Carter. And Erik wrote the title to this song right away. We're About Nine sings on the chorus.
A solid opening set, a very worthy opening to Dave Carter's incredible music. And Erik, God's Poet Now is such an appropriate tribute to Dave Carter - one that expresses so well what I and others have been feeling. Thank you so much for that song and for all your music.
Tracy Grammer recalls that she was on this stage at the Jammin Java 1 year and 2 months ago, at the very last Dave and Tracy show. Dave's wrote " I stand in the midst where my fire used to burn" and Tracy recalls that line on stages, where she has in the past appeared with Dave.
Gun Metal Eyes - This was the first song Tracy heard Dave Carter play. Tracy moved to Portland in January 1996, and 3 weeks later in February she went to an open mike at Buffalo Gap and played with another singer. People where telling her, you just have to hear Dave Carter, he sounds just like Lyle Lovett. Well Dave came in late and did not hear Tracy play. When he played he sounded nothing like Lyle Lovett. Tracy heard a blend of native American and a love of nature. Yes, the kind of music she wanted to play. Then on the way out, she literally bumped into Dave Carter. Their instruments cases bumped going out the door. He said, oh you play the violin, would you like to play with me. (Tracy did not know he had been looking for a violin player). She said yes, and the rest if history. Dave Carter learned this story from a native American medicine man.
Shadow of Evangeline - Tracy is looking for Dave Carter songs that should be recorded. There are boxes and boxes of cassette tapes - so it is quite a discernment process. One clue is if the song shows up on 6 or 8 different cassettes. That is true of this one, and it is one of his creepier tunes - a mixture of influences from his evangelist mother, the tale of Evangeline and voodoo.
Gentle Arms of Eden - Dave Carter had the ability to wake with part of a song and stay a semi-awake place, where he would write and also go back down and pull up more from that dream state. The dreams gave melodic motifs and lyrical support. But this is the one song that was gift entire from the dream world. Tracy heard recently that this song about evolution has been added to at least one church's hymnal.
Hard to Make It - Dave Carter had a 100 mile wide compassionate streak. He was able to step into the shoes of a person very different from himself. That is true in this song, inspired by a guy at a bus stop and a girl who worked there. The lyrics include: "you can't remember where your heart once lay".
Hey Ho - It is not true that Dave Carter was not a political songwriter. It is just that most of those songs didn't get recorded. This is a song about selling violent toys to children.
Happytown - Dave Carter studied at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology , and Tracy is thankful that they encouraged him to live his dream and be a full-time songwriter, not a mathematician or a music teacher. Now Tracy is learning to sing his songs, and to interpret these songs, she has to make the story of the song, her story too. Around the time Tracy was learning to sing this song, she had a full blown panic attack. All the loss came down on her at once. A catharsis maybe. She "punched through the grief door".
Tracy asked Erik Balkey to recommend someone who could accompany her on a few songs, and Erik recommended Eliot Bronson. Tracy and Eliot rehearsed together at the sound check. Eliot's guitar and vocals sound great, backing up Tracy for these wonderful songs. Tracy says she can see that Erik has good judgment.
Love the Magician - This is from the Critter trilogy. Dave Carter wrote critter songs for Tracy to sing, and lonesome dude songs for himself to sing. Now Tracy has to make the "dude" songs, into ‘duddette" songs to sing them herself. On this song, Tracy play the mandolin
I Go Like the Raven - Tracy switches to violin. This is the last of the critter trilogy. Tracy appeared to Dave in a dream like a raven. At the time she thought, oh he is dreaming about me. Later after Dave died, and Tracy was dreaming of him, she consulted some dream dictionaries and found the Raven is a very ambivalent character in terms of what it portends. But in Native America mythology it is a mediator between Gods and men. This can be seen as a girl power song. (Tracy is so glad to have Eliot's guitar accompaniment on this song. She has done it alone, but does not prefer that.)
Fiddler's Rim - Again Tracy plays the violin. Again after she thanks Eliot Bronson, as he leaves the stage, for having playing with her for these songs.
Winter When He Goes - this is "dude" song and to sing it Tracy has changed the pronouns. This song is about being left...when you are with someone but you feel you can't find your way back to who they are. The couple this song was written about did find their way back. Dave wrote this about himself and Tracy during a tense time when they were working intensely on the Tanglewood Tree CD.They both had so passionate a vision, but at times it felt like they were working on artistic cross-purposes.
The Power and the Glory - This is another compassionate Dave Carter song, inspired by his meeting Emmy Lou Harris. Someone insisted Dave go in and meet her after a show and she was very tired an it was not good timing. Dave had gone to Nashville earlier, inspired by seeing his Grandmother in a dream encourage him to go. This grandmother was always a big fan of his songs; he had been writing songs since about 6 years old. Nashville was a disappointment. "The power and the glory aint all they tell you."
The Mountain - Dave Carter couldn't find a Buddhist mantra that fit in this song, so he went online to sumerian.net and patched together the Sumerian words in this song which translated go something like: endless mountain of cedar trees, forest of light, endless forest of cedar trees, I walk alone, I walk alone (I am not sure I got this exactly as Tracy said it). We're About Nine sing the Sumerian phases, a gorgeous harmonious backup for Tracy in this wondrous song. It is even more poignant seeing We're About Nine on stage and realizing that the venue they are to play in the next night for their big CD release party is contemplating cancelling because of the approaching hurricane (and they do shut down, as does everything else the next night).
Thinking Tracy mentions sumerian.net I go online I can't find a this site; I do find http://www.sumerian.org/ and other similar sites.
Gentle Soldier of My Soul - Tracy tells us she is closing this show with this song, which closes every show she does. It says everything she would want to say about parting and reunion.
For the Encore, Tracy invites all the musicians back onstage to sing with her, Buddy Monlock's song No Choice. Buddy was touring all around at one point with Art Garfunkel and on this tour when Buddy sang his song he dedicated it to Dave Carter. Each musician here takes a verse. Pat Klink of We're About Nine plays the mandolin. "Was it love so big it filled his heart"
Then a final encore with Tracy alone on stage. This is a song from their band days in 1997, a find of gospel tune which Tracy hopes to record someday - On the Redwing Valley - "in praise and lamantation...any way I do..I come into the presence of the Lord".
Afterwards, the the musicains are behind the CD table. We're About Nine are so lively and dynamic and seem larger than life (2 of them are very tall young men). And for a moment Tracy, who is so full and rich and vibrant on stage, seems so small. I look again and she moved forward and is smiling and talking to a couple about show.
Rich rich evening of music. Worth the one hour drive through Washington Beltway traffic, even if I do have to go to work the next day (which incredibly I don't because Hurricane Isabel cancels everything on Thursday and Friday). And Tracy plans to continue to share Dave's music including some of his unrecorded songs and to write some of her own songs. A CD maybe by next summer!
I wish Tracy could take all these great musicians with her wherever she goes. But no, then we would see even less of them than we do. They tour so much already singing their own marvelous songs. Maybe there will be some reunions at festivals.
Sunday, September 21, 2003
Lea's CD Release Party September 16, 2003 at Institute for Musical Traditions Silver Spring MD
Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer were singing here the last time I came to IMT. We're About Nine were so proud to open for the incredible duo, and I sat with another pair of singer-songwriters, Rick and Audrey, and talked with them about poetry and music. I now think of Dave Carter and how I will see brave Tracy on Wednesday at the Jammin Java. She is continuing to bring his music to the world.
This is Lea's CD Release Party the announcer says. And she is also part of a funk band Zeala (oh is that what Zeala is, a funk band.)
Lea, dressed in a white shirt and black pants, opens with an acapella rendition of hymn about love and spirit.
There is a sweet stillness in the room which she breaks with a disclaimer. This was announced as a night to focus on her, but Lea says "I am bringing so many people up on stage with me, I'll be lost in the crowd". She begins with invoking the memory of people not here and dedicates love from this concert to the memory of someone, perhaps a musician, who passed last weekend.
Lea tells us people ask her how long she has been playing and singing. She says forever. She was part of the Jones Family Gospel Singers. They have gotten back together for the first time in maybe 5 years to perform tonight. When they come on stage I see they all have on white blouses or shirts and black skirts or pants. This is a choir and Lea is a member!
A woman (who turns out to be Sandra Morris, Lea's mother), says the Jones Family Gospel Singers started about 50 years ago , when she was 6, and they toured from New York up and down the east coast to the South and back. And, no Lea singing from birth, she was singing before birth (her Mom should know!).
I sit in awe at the rich sound, and precision harmonies, timing, presentation of a couple of spirituals which include: I'm Going Home on the Morning Train and Christian Automobile.
After the thundering applause, the group may need to reconsider their decision some years ago to quit touring!
Lea introduces us to the family choir she was born into, and started singing with as soon as she could create syllables. They are: Uncle – Layton Jones, Aunt – Iantha Jones, Aunt – Olivia Mallory, and Mom – Sandra Morris. Lea acknowledges her dad in the audience, and Grandmother Bertha Jones.
But after the choir sits down, Lea takes off her white shirt, and now has on a more revealing little black top and black pants.
She tells us at some point she lost her last name (Morris). Well her last name is on her driver's license. And Lea can claim to be a star. As a friend told her "you know Lea, we are already stars, it just people haven't figured it out yet."
Lea's songs include (and I am not sure of the titles so I included some of the lyrics):
Monarch - "the souls of American girls, were all hungry for love". Great song Lea!
"My old man used to rock out with the band, play the horn"
Lea's Dad told her never to give up on her dreams, but as a mom now, she is not sure what to tell her own daughter Laela. First Laela said "I want to be a bird", then was it "a penguin", then "a basketball player", more recently "a singer". Laela leaves Lea speechless!
"Watch me now…looking for a little love…I'm a supervona"
Let it go
"She never listens to the rain…to her heart….loose the pain until I open my heart"
Inspired by listening to Dave Matthew's song Gravedigger, Lea wrote this song:
"Your hands are singing…you were born to fly – we're all spinning here.
"How did we make it? …we are one…live for your faith not your fears"
After the Break – some – not all – members of Zeala join Lea on stage. This band's look is Avril and Aura in dusty red shirts and black pants and Cheryl and Lea in all black
Lea and accompanied by Avril on Mandolin
It's Been a Long Time – accompanied by Avril on a very tall bass, Aura on vocals, and Cheryl Terwilliger on trumpet
I regrettably turn into a pumpkin tonight and have to leave early. I am so glad I came and so grateful for the part of this concert I heard. And I understand that a singer-songwriter in the audience is writing up tonight's concert for a local newspaper, and when that article is published I will add the link here.