Dave Carter, whose work with Tracy Grammer positioned the duo among the rising stars of contemporary folk/Americana, died of a heart attack on July 19 in Hadley, Massachusetts. He was 49.
Born in Oxnard, California, and raised in rural Texas and Oklahoma, Carter earned an MFA in music (plus BA’s in mathematics and psychology) from the University of Oklahoma. Despite a lifetime of playing and writing music, he did not turn professional until age 42. He released a solo disc in 1996, then formed a duo with Grammer in 1998.
Carter wrote everything on the pair’s elegant, eclectic albums (1998′s When I Go, 1999′s Tanglewood Tree and last year’s Drum Hat Buddha), displaying a penetrating intellect, wry humor and a clear-eyed fascination with mythology, folklore, shape-shifting and all matters spiritual.
In fact, Carter’s easy familiarity with the magical, shadowy aspects of “the other side” was so elemental to his persona that friends, while stunned that he’d collapsed and died after a morning run, tempered their shock with wistful resignation. “Some people like Dave, it seems like they’re not meant to stay around for very long,” mused Pete Kennedy. “He was way beyond a lot of us.”
Witness Carter’s last verse of the prophetic title track of When I Go (reissued earlier this year by Signature Sounds): “And should you glimpse my wand’rin’ form out on the borderline/Between death and resurrection and the council of the pines/Do not worry for my comfort, do not sorrow for me so/All your diamond tears will rise up and adorn the sky beside me/When I go.”
“Shortly after he went unconscious,” Tracy Grammer wrote, “he came back for a lucid minute or two to tell me, ‘I just died…Baby, I just died…’ There was a look of wonder in his eyes.”