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In a barroom debate over greatest musicians in rock history you could win a hefty amount just sitting on the sidelines and placing wagers as to the five or so names that are all but assured to come up when discussing specific instruments.

That rough consensus concerning the contenders for these mythical titles doesn’t always ensure agreement on the ultimate “winner” of the crown, but for the most part the names being thrown about will be known by one and all when the topic comes up and the insistent declarations start flying.

Occasionally there’s one guy – hardly ever girls, who are far too smart to pay attention to these pointless arguments – sitting on the corner barstool who looks at these loudmouth cretins with barely concealed disgust until he signals to the bartender for the bill, digs some money out to pay for he and his girlfriend’s drinks, and slides off the stool, heading for the door, needing to get out into the night air and get away from the mindless noise they’re generating.

Most of the time in these situations he’d be content to refocus his attention on the one he’s with, the prettiest girl in the room whom the noisy rock round-table holding forth on a topic they know nothing about barely noticed while making such a racket, but every so often, unable to help himself in the face of such ignorance on public display, he hesitates momentarily as he passes behind them. As his girl squeezes his hand in a silent but futile effort to keep him moving, he takes advantage of a rare pause in their pointless dispute over the greatest guitar player in the history of rock… the expected names they offer swirling together like the ingredients of their fourth round of mixed drinks in front of them… and he leans in between them and says with quiet self-assurance…

The answer is Goree Carter… you stupid fucks.

…and promptly walks out without another word, leaving behind three or four puzzled faces soon to break into laughter at being told a name they’d never heard of, completely unaware that the rock gods looking down from above are laughing at them for their terminal stupidity.


Now You Got To Deal With Me
One thing in this song’s favor, at least in terms of providing additional evidence as to Carter’s proficiency on the instrument, is the extended guitar solo that opens the record.

It’s an intriguing sound, one hinting at – but never revealing – some darker secret embedded within its grooves. That teasing pace, quick enough to get you leaning forward in anticipation yet drawn out enough to keep you in suspense, works to its advantage by allowing your imagination to fill in the picture, contemplating the possibilities that await you.

Carter’s not alone in this endeavor of course, as Lonnie Lyons rattles the keys behind him to suggest some unfocused commotion in the background without allowing it to take over the record and when Goree starts singing he’s got the horn section to provide the brief interjections in response to each line, balancing out the sound spectrum in neat, efficient fashion.

The storyline, courtesy of fellow young aspiring Texas based guitarist Johnny Copeland, is the other standout facet of Working With My Baby which twists the expecting meaning of the title by using it not as the expected declaration of Carter’s own romantic prowess but rather as an accusation to a rival suitor who’s moving in on his girlfriend.

The verbal sparring – and yes, we get the other guy’s put downs of Carter via his retelling of it – is pretty pointed, with Carter keeping outwardly calm even as he quietly seethes while recounting the interloper’s efforts to steal his girlfriend by badmouthing Goree’s prospects for giving her a good life without any steady income (hmm, apparently this guy was hip to record company shenanigans regarding royalty payments).

The vocal responses echoing the title line by the band gives this some added character and the confident measured threats he issues which escalate to a vow to settle the score with gun play is remarkably matter-of-fact which makes it all the more menacing. He isn’t shooting his mouth off in an attempt to look tough to outsiders, or to attempt to scare off the other guy by out-bluffing him, Carter sounds as if he’s looking forward to dusting this joker.

Of course here’s where we’re compelled to tell him that if this girl is seeing someone else on the side she’s hardly worth the trouble of a lengthy jail sentence or possibly his own demise if the other cat is as well armed as he is, so maybe it’s best he tells the other fella he can have this no-good trollop with the wandering eye while he moves on to someone more faithful.

BUT if he’s bound and determined to prove his own mettle with firearms someone had best tell him that it’s not that type of weaponry that will inflict the most damage on an opponent, it’s his guitar.


You Made Your Play
Because of the rigidly composed manner Carter showcases as a “character” in this story, which is the very thing that makes his threats so chilling, he seems to feel somewhat constricted in his methods for carrying them out… or rather carrying out the aural equivalent of them via his guitar solo.

Though it’s expertly played as you’d expect, deftly switching up his pace some more, surging forward before pulling up on the dime, letting notes fade into the abyss before starting up again, it’s more an example of surgical dismemberment than of brutal annihilation.

Naturally that’s something of a let-down, but only in terms of people craving to hear the most explosive sounds possible from someone who is no longer around to lay down anything new. At the time Working With My Baby came out there was every reason to think that Carter would have all the opportunity in the world to expand on what he’d already delivered, so this probably would’ve been appreciated just as much as something more lively.

Besides, had he wanted to go for broke on the solo it would’ve probably required a different placement in the song because the most explicit verbal warning comes after the solo and since you’d envision a mind-blowing guitar throw down to represent the fireworks of the shootout itself, you can see how it would’ve been out of place earlier on. He probably understood this too and chose instead to build the tension further in its stead by giving us something that simply suggests the reckoning that is imminent.

You Earn My Lovin’
You’re still free to feel a bit shortchanged if you want, though it’s not as if this was going to be his career defining record even with a twisted string workout that left you breathless, not when Goree’s nasal delivery can’t fully convey the swagger a song like this needs.

Yet even with its slight drawbacks there’s still enough talent shown here to make the end results amply rewarding and when considering the lack of guitar heroes in rock as the Forties draw to a close the ongoing lack of commercial success Goree Carter had is all the more frustrating, if for no other reason than to further diversify the sounds shaping this genre as it rolls along.

Even without the rightful recognition at the time, records like Working With My Baby serve as proof that what would eventually become standard operating procedure in rock ‘n’ roll was done first by Goree Carter, still a teenager with his whole life ahead of him, yet who without a hit to his name was already in danger of slipping into obscurity before he even turned twenty years old.


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