Little Blue Egg (Red House), one of the best folk albums I’ve heard in the past year, could have easily never happened. As you may know, Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer teamed up professionally and personally in 1996 and made great music together for several years. Then in 2002, Carter died suddenly of a heart attack at age 49. Eight years later, Grammer was rescuing tapes from a moldy basement when she discovered about 30 demos, living room recordings and reference tracks, all in perfect condition. From those 30 came the 11 intimate performances included in this collection.
They’re uniformly first-rate and frequently stunning and I can’t help feeling that they might have been less so if they’d been turned into ostensibly more polished and fully produced studio performances. Instead, we mostly have just Carter and Grammer’s wonderfully blended voices, a bit of guitar and the occasional violin accent. You feel as if you’re eavesdropping in the couple’s living room as they make music.
Listening to the CD, you realize just how much we lost when Carter died. His vocals manage the intimacy of a Nick Drake and his compositions are nothing short of magnificent. For evidence, start with the love song “Gypsy Rose” (which has also been beautifully recorded by the Kennedys. One listen should suffice to tell you that melodically and lyrically, this is a folk classic—the sort of song that will live forever, alongside tunes like Eric Andersen’s “Violets of Dawn,” Tom Paxton’s “Ramblin’ Boy” and Paul Simon’s “Sounds of Silence.”
And “Gypsy Rose” is far from the only classic on this important album–an album that suggests Carter and Grammer’s music is a whole lot better than their music-world profile might suggest.