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When looking for reasons why a talented artist with some dynamic recordings to their credit didn’t find the kind of massive success they seemed destined for, you often ponder what they didn’t do as much as what they did.

For instance, an artist reliant on specific approach may get repetitive, or find that their specialty is more of a niche taste and thus it’s their failure to diversify their sounds that kept more people from discovering them.

While you might think that would be the case with Goree Carter – a guitar wizard in an era of sax and piano based rock hits – he has never simply confined himself to uptempo rave-ups on his instrument, commercial indifference be damned. He’s been surprisingly versatile, releasing everything from stark ballads to quirky experiments that had no clear-cut established home.

Here he serves up another stylistic curveball that would give no indication that he was the same artist whose blazing fretwork was his calling card… and yet this too fell on deaf ears.


Without Your Love My Life Will Be Ruined
Artistic ambition is something you either have or you don’t. Those without it seem to simply take advantage of their natural singing or playing ability to have a career and enjoy its perks whereas those who have it try to build their career by constantly seeking to express themselves and show off their musical ideas beyond just cranking out what’s expected.

There are plenty of legendary artists whose ambitions were rather limited yet they don’t suffer from it because what they did was so consistently good and appealing that they didn’t HAVE to do more to gain anybody’s respect.

Then there are those who don’t seem satisfied with just scoring hits and want to be taken more seriously.

In the review for the flip side of this single, I’m Your Boogie Man, we said how Goree Carter might’ve had a better career had he been part of a self-contained band with a more capable frontman which would allow him to be the primary songwriter, lead guitarist and occasional vocalist, a la Keith Richards with The Rolling Stones, who surprisingly make for a good comparison for Carter in this respect as well.

The Stones did one thing REALLY well and got plenty of hits and lots of respect for mastering the driving guitar-led rockers, but like Carter they also constantly tried showing there was more to their music than that, doing everything from re-imagined blues standards to country-styled ballads and discofied tracks later on.

On Please Say You’re Mine Goree Carter steps away from his dominant persona, cutting a slow dreamy ballad on which his guitar playing is merely providing muted atmopsheric support.

This was clearly not going to be the hit side, nor is it what he’ll be remembered for, but when it comes to showing the extent of his artistry, this adds surprising depth to his catalog and shows that far from a one-trick pony, Goree Carter’s ambition was well beyond most of his peers.


I’m In Another World
Considering how assertive his signature uptempo tracks have been, it’s refreshing to see how convincing Carter is while being introspective.

It doesn’t just show off technical versatility, but also an impressive conscious attempt at characterization, playing someone struggling to overcome insecurity with a stubbornly resilient confidence while romantically longing for someone who probably is out of his league.

As written Please Say You’re Mine borders on cliché without fully giving itself over to a series of trite proclamations. Carter throws enough sneaky good lines into the song to give it some personality beyond the simple pining away theme – “with love like mine there is no danger” – an odd reassurance considering the girl doesn’t even seem to know him.

What stands out most though is his singing, something we criticized justifiably on the flip side where his clogged nasal passages almost derailed the song and which has always been the fly in the ointment when it comes to some of his work.

Not so here where he’s effectively crooning throughout the song, certainly never approaching the kind of ethereal vocals of say Sonny Til or Eugene Mumford as might’ve been his goal, but still showing a fragile innocence with his breathy lead, giving the impression of someone so caught up in their fantasy of this girl that they spend much of their lives lost in dreams.

Meanwhile the band provides the perfect subdued ambiance to these desires with the saxophone’s warm distant tone that seems to echo his thoughts while the piano does just enough to keep the melodic compass pointed in the right direction. By resisting the urge to cut loose himself on guitar during the solo, thereby changing the mood considerably, the sax takes this role instead and its languid playing allows you to stay firmly under the spell Carter has cast.

It’s a pretty song… and a pretty good one at that.


Maybe I’m Just A Stranger
Though this is an atypical record from Goree Carter, it’s one that sounds comfortably familiar in the era itself even while it largely avoids reading like a roll call of stereotypes the ballads of this period were built on.

Carter never swings for the fences here, but beats you with a succession of solid base hits – choosing hope over despair, tenderness over insistence and aiming to establish a mood rather than attempting to knock you off your feet.

If you were to compile a short 6 to 8 song playlist of Carter’s absolute best sides, Please Say You’re Mine might fall a little short of making the cut, simply because the most explosive sides would be too good to leave off.

But if you were to choose tracks based on how it plays as a collection, this would fit nicely into the compilation by changing up the sound while still providing something appealing in its own right.

Though he clearly is most at home when he can show off his rambunctious attitude and guitar work, this proves he was never merely confined to repeating that ad nauseum. He may be lacking hits, but Goree Carter was never lacking ambition and as such this helps to paint a much fuller picture of Carter the artist.


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