DAVE CARTER & TRACY GRAMMER
Tracy Grammer first saw Dave Carter perform at a songwriter's showcase shortly after she moved to Portland, Oregon. "As far as I was concerned, the rest of the room disappeared at that point. I knew instantly that I was in the presence of greatness." They met on their way out the door and by early 1998 had entered into a mutual "marriage in music."
Their unique strengths came together in powerful synergy. Carter conjured mystical, romantic true fictions while Grammer complemented his expert guitar, banjo and voice with beautifully intoned violin, guitar, mandolin and emotionally potent vocals. Grammer's budding production skills led them to record their first album, "When I Go," in Grammer's kitchen. The simple, no frills recording built on Carter's impressive songwriting wins (at Kerrville, Wildflower and Napa Valley) and garnered the unknown duo a feature article in the LA Times. The prescient writer declared Carter "a major lyrical talent" and proclaimed their self-released album "discovery of the year."
By 2000, they were signed to Signature Sounds and released "Tanglewood Tree" on the well respected Massachusetts label. The album swept the folk airwaves, finishing as the #1 Most Played Album on Folk Radio for 2000. The 2001 release of the polished "Drum Hat Buddha" brought Grammer into high relief. Her vocals were featured on fully half of the cuts and her astute production leadership resulted in what many regarded as their studio tour de force. With mainstream airplay on the Triple A charts and solid Americana and folk play as well, the duo was flooded with praise. "If the voice of modern folk is changing - it is going to sound a lot like Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer." (BostonGlobe); "In any rational universe, Carter & Grammer would be spoken of in the same terms of Bob Dylan and John Lennon...their recording is that good." (Dirty Linen).
On the heels of this heady response, Carter and Grammer joined fan and folk icon Joan Baez on her early 2002 east coast tour. In addition to their feature set, the two also served as backing band members. Grammer found herself in the spotlight as the featured instrumentalist and with her voice exquisitely balanced in counterpoint to Baez' rich vocals. Meanwhile, Carter's compositions were covered by Baez in company with songs by Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Merle Haggard and Steve Earle -- an incredible endorsement by one of the foremost curators and interpreters of modern American songwriting.
The spring and summer of 2002 saw Carter and Grammer on the road, with an itinerary of the nation's top venues and festival son their slate. On Friday July 19, while staying in their favorite hotel in western Massachusetts, Carter returned from a run, complaining of chest pains. He expired in Grammer's arms from a massive heart attack, just three weeks shy of his 50th birthday.
Grammer's brave response to her own loss was to embrace the musical community's collective loss. In the following weeks, she anchored musical tributes at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, the Philadelphia Folk Festival, and the official Portland memorial service. With a composure informed by emotional depth, Grammer lifted her lone voice with grace and power -- ensuring Carter's legacy and her own solo journey in music.
Just days after Carter passed away, Grammer foretold her musical future in a letter she posted on their web site: "We need to keep this music alive, it was always my mission that the world hear and know the poetry and vision and wonderful mystical magic of David Carter. This path is broad and long; I hope you will stay the course with me."