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At a certain point it just becomes frustrating.

As an artist you hope for a chance to be heard and get yourself a record contract and hope that when you do get into the studio everything works out alright… that you have good material, quality sidemen and a sympathetic producer

If all goes well in that regard and you get a good take on a song and see it released by a label that does its best to promote it, obviously you’re hoping for a hit, or at least some recognition for your performance. If it falls a little short in one of those areas you hope you’ll be able to get another chance and then, if need be, another still.

Goree Carter can’t complain about missing chances, he’s had plenty of them on multiple labels and has delivered some truly indelible performances along the way. But in spite of that talent and a track record of sterling sides to his name he has yet to break through commercially and after nearly three years he’s somehow closer to being unemployed than he is to being a star.


You Ain’t Nowhere
There are still those deluded crackpots in the world who insist on referring to Goree Carter as a blues artist rather than a rocker.

Unfortunately some of those people worked for Coral Records in 1951, as evidenced by the small print on the label.

Aside from their questionable hearing and cognitive skills, what none of them seem likely to be able to answer is a very simple query regarding Carter’s output, namely that even though he’s failed to score a hit with his rock material he continues to write songs in that vein which make up the overwhelming output of his releases on each label he’s been on… including this one.

Though the reason for this “case of mistaken identity” probably comes down to the simple fact that the white record industry viewed black music in very narrow categories in 1951 (and still do today for that matter) and since he wasn’t playing jazz and wasn’t singing about heaven then the easiest term to affix to him was “blues”, which was not always a literal musical definition but more a catch-all term for black secular music of the day.

But there’s also the possibility that this terminology harmed Carter’s commercial chances a little, at least if the Decca subsidiary pushed a record like this in areas where pure blues reigned, for it doesn’t take more than one listen to see that on I’m Your Boogie Man he doubles down on rock ‘n’ roll with a blistering track and declarative lyrics that put any such questions about his true allegiance to rest.

You’d think that if he WAS a blues act as these people claim, he might actually read the writing on the wall and admit that his rock material wasn’t getting the job done and maybe he would be better off switching to the blues for real and throwing his fate in with a genre that, as of 1951 at least, still had a very viable – and perhaps more loyal – market.

Thankfully for us he did no such thing.


If You Wanna Boogie
The pieces are all in place for this to be another scintillating record… we get honking saxes playing with a deep and lusty aggression riding over the piano in the intro which set a storming rhythm and before long we get some of Carter’s patented single-string solos that raise the hairs on your neck.

What’s not to like?

Well, how about the fact that in the midst of it all we find the one technical drawback that always threaten to curtail the effectiveness of even his best efforts… that nasal voice of his, sounding half submerged which undercuts the excitement he’s trying to stir.

In the past he’s been able to mostly keep this malady at bay, surrounding his vocals with such pyrotechnics that you tend not to notice it quite so much, but here it becomes the elephant in the room, distracting you from what he’s saying – and at times even taking away from what he’s playing.

All of which is a shame because I’m Your Boogie Man is another fairly well crafted song as he’s coming onto a girl who’s caught his eye with an easy confidence that would be far more engaging if his tone had some additional bite to it.

The verses are better than the chorus in that regard, as once he hits the title line it sounds as if his nose is being clamped shut or he just spent an hour sleeping in a field of ragweed. It’s impossible to get excited for something that sounds like a cruel joke on him and considering that the Decca conglomerate had some spare change rattling around their vaults, maybe they should’ve invested in a vocal coach who could teach him how to breathe properly and better utilize the soft palette to eliminate that problem once and for all.

Seriously, a few two hour sessions in a week and maybe a follow up visit later in the month and he could’ve sounded like a whole new man.

As it is though he’s got some work to do to make up for his factory defect but luckily he’s still got full use of his hands which just so happen to be holding a guitar which can create plenty of ruckus on its own.

Or so we think, because while his axe is being played in the background for much of this, he gets just one solo – a really good one with nice melodic twists and a warm inviting tone – but otherwise he defers to the saxophones for the majority of the time.

That’s not the worst decision by the producers maybe, at least in terms of trying to tie this in with a sound that is still more marketable in rock, and the sax is doing a good job of keeping the energy up with a throbbing solo of its own. But when you have someone of Carter’s skill in the studio – on a record in which his whole career may hang in the balance – it’d sure be nice to let him decide his own fate rather than leave it more to chance.


Turn Out All The Lights, Pull The Shades Down Low
If all of his previous releases dating back to 1949 had suffered due to the same issue then maybe it’d be time to suggest that Goree Carter’s real problem was he came along too early, before self-contained groups were the rage which would’ve allowed him to be a lead guitarist and songwriter playing behind a dynamic singer, thereby letting his talents be better deployed while taking the burden off him to carry out duties beyond his capabilities.

in other words Keith Richards would have some major competition had Carter come along fifteen years later.

But that hasn’t really been the case so far.

Sure Carter’s nasal voice has been apparent from the beginning, but somehow he’s largely kept it from intruding on his best sides. This time around, while it doesn’t come close to sinking I’m Your Boogie Man completely thanks to a good story and solid arrangement, it definitely knocks it down a peg or two when his voice is rivaling the saxophone for the honking championship of 1951.

He’s still got plenty of attributes worth exploring, but the balance now seems more precarious than ever. As this record shows, if you lean too far towards one aspect of his persona while easing off on another, the thing that makes him unique will become less clear to virgin ears and since he hasn’t had much success even when the elements are all perfectly aligned, this spells trouble for his future prospects.

So while this is a reasonably good effort, it’s clear that it’s not his best and so it won’t be long before Carter is on the move again, still in search of that elusive breakthrough hit before the sand in the hour glass runs out.


(Visit the Artist page of Goree Carter for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)