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The career of one of rock’s most vital but perpetually undervalued pioneers comes to a sudden and ignominious stop with this release, his last single before commercial indifference and an untimely Army conscription made any future progress all but impossible.

But while the returns for this final effort weren’t any better than the records which had preceded it the important thing in retrospect is not to curse fate for depriving us of what might’ve been, but to instead celebrate everything that he’d already accomplished for the advancement of rock ‘n’ roll itself.


You Said You Couldn’t Use Me
So many ancillary things need to go right for an artist to achieve transcendent status that talent alone can not guarantee.

From coming along at the right time to fit into, yet push beyond, the styles currently in favor to being discovered, signed and allowed to pursue your own vision even if those around you question that vision, the road to stardom is never as simple as traveling a straight and well-lit route, it’s more like a navigating your way through a maze in the dark.

Goree Carter had some good fortune along the way when he was signed to Freedom Records who, despite some initial resistance, allowed him to rock rather than force him to cut blues records, and where he found like minded session musicians willing and able to add to what were at the time unconventional ideas of how this music should sound.

But his prospects were hamstrung when the company wasn’t able to effectively promote or widely distribute his records, which combined with the possibility that in 1949-50 the world wasn’t yet ready for what he had to offer meant that he was stuck on the outside looking in as rock took off commercially, leaving him behind.

His move to Sittin’ In With Records in the spring of 1950 wasn’t going to change that. They were an equally underfunded label with limited reach, not to mention having a slightly weaker and slightly less compatible studio band to pair him with, but by now it was a moot point anyway as there was a draft notice waiting in his mailbox when he returned from New York, meaning there was virtually no way that his career prospects were going to turn around now.

But while it can’t stand with his best sides, True Love Is Hard To Find reinforces what we already knew about him – he was a good songwriter who embodied the right attitude for rock ‘n’ roll and if they’d let him cut loose here instead of relying on an over-matched band to provide the musical firepower then this record would’ve made for a better send-off than what he got.

Look What You’ve Done
Continuing the theme of how many things need to go right for an artist, oftentimes things out of their own control, this record is a perfect example.

As written this is a solid entry in his catalog… not one of his best sides, but it has what it needs to hold its own. The theme is a good one as it brings a more philosophical look to the travails of finding a lasting relationship, while the way in which Carter deviates from a straight-forward delivery he starts with by modulating his voice as he goes along is really inventive for the genre at the time.

His ideas in other words were always creative. Rather than stick to an established formula he constantly wanted to try new things, but in order to do that effectively he needed a capable support system and this is where he’s let down most on True Love Is Hard To Find.

It starts off strong with Carter’s slashing guitar and the horns trading off before concluding the extended intro with a concise boogie riff that sets the scene pretty nicely. Whether done intentionally or not, the buzzy sound they get during this section gives the record a haunting vibe making those initial thirty seconds before the singing starts rather special.

His vocals, as always, are hampered somewhat by his nasal tone making some lines harder to comprehend as well as undercutting the declarative power some of them require, but when he downshifts and draws out the next stanza it arguably benefits from the same technical deficiencies that hampered the first stanza, making this a case of adapting what you’re doing to suit your strengths and weaknesses.

But it’s at the midway point where the tide starts to turn thanks to handing over the reins to those not named Goree Carter and expecting them to live up to his standards.

Can’t Use Nobody Else
When you have the best guitarist in rock making a record that features an instrumental break and that instrumental break does not involve said guitarist playing it means that as producer you have failed miserably in your primary job requirement and should probably look for a job selling produce on the side of the road instead.

Normally, even WITH such a potent weapon in their midst such as Carter’s guitar, we wouldn’t complain about getting a sax solo. It’s the sound that has defined rock ‘n’ roll to date after all and will remain a vital part of its sonic structure for years to come.

In fact the B-side of this release, Jumpin’ At Jeffs’, was a pure instrumental carried out by this same band (credited to Carter and even claiming on the label it was “Sung By” him, though he doesn’t appear in any form) and it’s pretty good showing these guys could play as it features Ed Wiley’s tenor sax turning in a perfectly acceptable performance.

But on THIS side Wiley’s tenor is all but silent as instead the soloing role is given over to the thinner alto of Henry Hayes who is clearly not up to the task. On top of that he then hands off to a trumpet which further desecrates True Love Is Hard To Find with some equally weak noodling which takes all the wind out of the record’s sails.

Now were the folks at Sittin’ In With Records trying to undercut the artist they just signed with these decisions? No, of course not, but it’s definitely possible that they felt the reason his Freedom releases hadn’t sold was because of excessive guitar-work… unless they truly found the strained bleating of underpowered horns to be an appealing substitute for something with some actual muscle behind it.

Whatever the case the record struggles down the stretch and all of the shouting of “Go man, go!” behind them isn’t going to change anyone’s perception of this, taking what was shaping up to be a fairly good record and turning it into something that struggles to keep its head above water.


You Said You Didn’t Want Me
When we met him for the first time back in April 1949 we couldn’t have been more effusive in our praise for Goree Carter. In the sixteen months since he’s done nothing to dissuade us from our initial appraisal of his talents and his artistic ambitions. His own records, along with those he contributed to as a sideman – even more impressively was bringing Big Joe Turner to Freedom Records which got that legend’s career back on track – were all things to be proud of.

If there was one shortcoming it was his inability to truly look out for his own best interests, but how many teenagers in any field can claim they’d be more equipped to handle that side of the business than he was?

Maybe he felt the switch to another label would turn his fortunes around, but we’d never even get much of a chance to find out. By the time Carter was discharged a year from now his career was all but over despite a few more random releases being issued along the way.

All of which makes True Love Is Hard To Find an all-too eerily prescient title for somebody who should’ve reigned as one of rock’s most visionary artists, a trendsetting star for years to come, yet because he was unable to find any company that could put all of the pieces together he wound up all but forgotten, bitter and disillusioned, left to future generations to dig through the wreckage of his career to finally put him on the pedestal he deserved.

Though he was denied credit for far too long what’s undeniable is that once upon a time a teenager had the vision and skill to put into place the building blocks of a huge segment of the most important and successful musical genre of the Twentieth Century and that’s something no one can rightly deny him even if he never got to hear that praise in his own lifetime.


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