Tracy Grammer saw Dave Carter perform three songs at a songwriter's showcase shortly after she moved to Portland, Oregon in 1996. "Here were stories that could stand alone as poetry, sung with compassion, intelligence, and a hint of Texas twang,” Grammer says. “I knew instantly that I was in the presence of greatness; I knew I had received my calling in life.” They met on their way out the door and by late 1997 had entered into a mutual "marriage in music."
Their unique strengths and diverse backgrounds came together in powerful synergy. Carter conjured mystical, romantic, true fictions while Grammer complemented his expert guitar, banjo, and voice with beautifully intoned violin, mandolin and emotionally potent vocals. Building on Carter's impressive songwriting wins at Kerrville, Wildflower and Napa Valley, the duo recorded their first album, When I Go, in Grammer's kitchen. The simple, no-frills recording garnered the unknown duo a full-page feature article in the Los Angeles Times, naming Carter "a major lyrical talent" and declaring their self-released album a "discovery of the year."
The duo signed to Massachusetts-based label Signature Sounds in 2000 and released two chart-topping albums of what they called “postmodern, mythic American folk music.” In addition to heavy airplay across AAA, Americana and folk radio stations, the duo was highly celebrated by the press. The Boston Globe declared that "If the voice of modern folk is changing - it is going to sound a lot like Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer.” The flood of praise resulted in a full calendar of concert dates and an invitation to join folk icon Joan Baez on her spring 2002 east coast tour as both featured artists and band members. Grammer found herself in the spotlight as the instrumental soloist and backing vocalist, while Carter's compositions were being performed alongside songs byBob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Merle Haggard and Steve Earle -- an incredible endorsement by one of the foremost curators and interpreters of modern American songwriting.
Then, on the morning of Friday, July 19, in a room at the duo’s favorite hotel in Hadley, Massachusetts, Carter returned from a run complaining of chest pains. Soon thereafter, he died in Grammer's arms from a massive heart attack, just three weeks shy of his 50th birthday.
Grammer embraced the musical community's collective loss, anchoring musical tributes at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, theFalcon Ridge Folk Festival (which continues to honor Carter annually) and the official Portland memorial tribute, which featuredJoan Baez, Richard Shindell and others.
Grammer continues to perform Carter’s songs and has produced three solo and two duo albums since Carter’s death, including the critically acclaimed tribute CD Flower of Avalon with John Jennings as co-producer and Mary Chapin Carpenter contributing backing vocals and liner notes. In 2012 Red House Records releases Little Blue Egg, an album of previously-unreleased Dave & Tracy recordings. The CD includes eleven tracks, with five additional songs to be released throughout 2012 as part of a year-long celebration to mark the 10th anniversary of Carter’s death and what would have been his 60th birthday.Grammer says, "I’ll keep on singing, and I’ll keep on telling my story, however that evolves. Working with Dave Carter was the first step on what I hope is going to be a long and fruitful road for me: the endless quest for authenticity through music.”
Cliff Eberhardt knew by age seven that he was going to be a singer and songwriter. Growing up in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, he and his brothers sang together and their parents played instruments. His dad introduced him to the guitar and he quickly taught himself to play. Fortunate enough to live close to the Main Point (one of the best folk clubs on the East Coast), he cut his teeth listening to the likes of James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bonnie Raitt, and Mississippi John Hurt — receiving an early and impressive tutorial in acoustic music. At the same time, he was also listening to great pop songwriters like Cole Porter, the Gershwins, and Rodgers and Hart, which explain his penchant for great melodies and clever lyrical twists.
At fifteen, Cliff and his brother Geoff began touring as an acoustic duo, playing the Eastern club circuit until Cliff turned twenty-one and moved to Carbondale, Illinois. There he found space to develop his own voice within a vibrant and supportive music scene that included Shawn Colvin. After a couple of years there and a short stay in Colorado, Cliff moved to New York in 1978. Because the clubs were great (the Bitter End, the Speakeasy, Kenny's Castaway, Folk City) and the company amazing (John Gorka, Suzanne Vega, Lucy Kaplansky, Julie Gold, Steve Forbert, Christine Lavin, and Shawn Colvin), New York was an ideal musician's boot camp. Though he put in long hours as a taxi driver, Cliff worked steadily on his music throughout the 80's, doing solo gigs and studio work, and playing guitar on the road with Richie Havens, Melanie and others. Singing advertising jingles for products like Coke, Miller Beer and Chevrolet ("The Heartbeat of America" campaign) allowed him to devote more time to his songwriting.
In 1990 Cliff's song "My Father's Shoes," appeared on Windham Hill's Legacy collection, leading to a deal with the label. They released Cliff's first album, The Long Road (1990), a work featuring a duet with Richie Havens. The critical response to this debut was outstanding (The Philadelphia Inquirer called the album a "repeatedly astounding collection"). He followed with two more records on Windham Hill before releasing 12 Songs of Good and Evil (1997) on Red House Records, which stemmed from a chance meeting with Red House founder Bob Feldman at John Gorka's wedding. Cliff recorded two more albums before his critically acclaimed The High Above and the Down Below, named the #5 album of 2007 by USA Today. Produced by legendary musician and Red House Records president Eric Peltoniemi, it was recorded in Minneapolis with noted jazz players Gordy Johnson, J. T. Bates and Rich Dworsky and was his first album after spending several years recovering from a car accident. With a new lease on life and a fresh batch of songs, Cliff embarked on what has turned out to be an artistic renaissance. Recorded in the Texas Hill Country, Cliff's new album 500 Miles: The Blue Rock Sessions may be his finest to date. An intimate album of powerful originals and unique covers, it features a reworking of his hit "The Long Road," a song made more poignant after nearly two decades of touring and recording. Long one of the most respected songwriters on the club scene, his peers often mine his catalog for themselves. Cliff's song "Memphis" was included on Cry Cry Cry, an album of collaborative covers by the "folk supergroup" of the same name (comprised of Dar Williams, Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell). Other performers who have recorded his songs include Richie Havens, Shawn Colvin, Russ Taff and Buffy Sainte Marie. A collection of his songs has been published in The Cliff Eberhardt Songbook (Cherry Lane Publishing).
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