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MODERN 20-819; MAY 1951



Don’t get your hopes up… the artist, the record label, the possibilities this pairing suggests in terms of personnel… it’s not happening.

Instead all we get is a once great artist with just a second tier local Houston band behind him from a session that probably wasn’t even held in a studio but rather somebody’s house, comprised of two songs not four, put out on a Los Angeles label without the least bit of interest by the company itself.

How the mighty have fallen.


Hard Labor
Since so much of this is left to speculation, it’s probably best not to subject ourselves to the agony of contemplating too much about Goree Carter’s rapidly dissolving career, and just focus on the little we DO know.

Last spring Carter was in New York to cut his first session outside of his hometown of Houston when he received word that he’d been drafted. The session was canceled, Carter came home and was shipped off to serve the country that had enslaved his ancestors and denied Goree his constitutional rights from birth while now depriving him of his livelihood.

That sounds strangely like Slavery 2.0 to me.

Despite service hitches being two years if drafted (four years if you were dippy enough to enlist voluntarily), Carter was somehow back in Houston making records a year later… or at least that’s the minimal information we have.

Truthfully it’s all very sketchy. Freedom Records had folded up shop last fall. Carter had then cut sides with Sittin’ In With and now for the rest of 1951 would have mostly “bedroom sessions”, wherein companies wouldn’t even hire out a studio but just set up recording equipment in a local home, though Coral Records this very month would have him in an actual studio which produced some professional sounding records.

You would think Modern Records would have done so too, as for all the criticism we heap on the despicable Bihari brothers their production is usually first rate. Seeing Carter on Modern, even if it meant he’d have his songwriting credits stolen, would still be something to celebrate because it’d mean he’d get to work with Maxwell Davis who had the golden touch in the studio.

Instead Davis wasn’t even in the same state as Carter when he cut Seven Days with Henry Hayes’ band.

Contracts? A ticket to Los Angeles for a proper session? C’mon, be serious. He never left Texas… and never would leave. His career was in tatters thanks to disreputable companies and the government itself.

Some thanks for essentially inventing a cornerstone sound of rock ‘n’ roll.


Don’t You Want To Live Like Me?
Though the band is not in the league that a session with Maxwell Davis would be they’re still a pretty good bunch of solid professional musicians who can be relied on to provide solid support without getting in the way. It’s the same crew that has backed Carter on Sittin’ In With (which has to get you wondering if they merely sold this side to Modern, which seems far more likely than one of the Bihari brothers trekking to Houston to cut two sides in somebody’s den) with Ed Wiley on tenor alongside Hayes on alto, Willie Johnson on piano with Donald Cooks and Ben Turner as the rhythm section.

They worked up a first rate arrangement with Carter’s guitar getting even more presence than usual in the mix on Seven Days, a sneakily good composition that positions him as someone who works hard but expects to be rewarded for it – wonder where he got THAT idea! – and is criticizing his girlfriend for doing nothing but taking his money when he gets home.

As complaints go it’s not breaking new ground, apparently rock stars attracted ladies who weren’t the best housekeepers, but there’s some nice details that Carter throws in about the condition of the house and her attitude while waiting to spend his money. Though the plot may be pretty basic, the musical framework is rock solid and that’s where this really stands out.

Carter is judicious with his guitar, never overplaying yet still providing plenty of fireworks. His tone, his melodic vision and his aggressiveness are all expertly applied, meshing well with the saxophones which provide the rest of the musical backdrop, riffing away, trading off lines and stirring up excitement. They don’t get in each other’s way, yet feed off one another throughout the soloing.

In a more professional setting with a “warmer” room (as the saying goes) this would’ve jumped out at you more but here it’s a little muddy sounding thanks to the recording limitations. You can make everything out fine, but it’s not as vibrant as it deserves to be for such a performance.

Yet again, even in less than ideal circumstances, Goree Carter delivers the goods providing a storming assault with a minimum of fuss that shows he was still one of the most exciting artists on the scene even if few in the industry were ready to admit it.

While this wasn’t going to be the kind of record that would let him break out as a national star it also wasn’t something that suggested his best days were behind him… only his best opportunities.


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