Gentle Arms of Eden
Here’s Dave Carter with Tracy Grammer from 2002, singing a song he had just written at the Sisters Folk Festival in Sisters, Oregon.
“Gentle Arms of Eden,” live on stage. This song may be the duo’s best known and has been incorporated into at least one Unitarian Universalist hymnal.
It’s hard to write about Carter without starting at the end. On the morning of July 19, 2002 in Hadley, MA, Carter went out for a run. When he returned to the hotel, he suffered a heart attack.
Tracy wrote their fans in an open letter on their website:
Dave Carter was 49 years old.
It doesn’t embed here, but there is a nice 2002 interview with the couple (and they were a couple, as well as a duo) from ArtsBeat Oregon from Oregon Public Broadcasting here.
More background on Dave and Tracy can be found in a review and interview by David Bulla in the Music Matters Review. Some highlights from that story:
Carter describes his parents: steeped in math and science and also touched by the Holy Spirit and evangelism. Dave eventually made his way to Portland, OR to study math there. He worked as a computer programmer and mathematician before turning to folk music in his 40s.
Meanwhile, Grammer studied English and anthropology at UC Berkeley:
Carter cites a number of songwriting heroes, including Joni Mitchell, the Beatles’ psychedelic period and the Dukes of Stratosphear (an XTC project to produce records in the late 1960s psychedelic pop style), as well as “Leonard Cohen, Emmylou Harris, Sean Colvin, Buck Owens, Miles Davis, Dwight Yokum, Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin and Waylon Jennings.”
Grammer described meeting Carter in Portland:
Carter on songwriting:
Joyce Marcel, a writer and fan, wrote an obituary for Carter (and Alan Lomax, who died the same day) in which she contemplated the recipe of Carter’s songwriting:
A week after Carter’s death, the duo were scheduled to perform at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. Tracy Grammer went alone.
From a review by Jennifer Hanson in Rambles:
In place of Dave and Tracy’s set, Grammer sang Carter’s “The Mountain” to open a series of performances of Carter’s songs. She closed with “Gentle Soldier of My Soul.”
Tracy Grammer continues to perform Dave Carter’s songs and has released music they had recorded before his untimely death.
As a duo, they had always performed Carter’s songs. After his passing, Grammer wrote her first original composition, a eulogy for Carter called “The Verdant Mile”:
At Falcon Ridge on the 10th anniversary of Dave Carter’s death:
[Bonus for Grammer and NFS fans: you can find her cover of Carole King's "Wasn't Born to Follow" on Spotify]
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Jack Cheng directs the Clemente Course in Dorchester, excavates in the Middle East, and writes in Waban, MA.