Preview Bill Carter's self-titled album.
Bill Carter's self-titled album
Bill Carter’s self-titled album proves that a good song can stand on its own, without help from a roomful of musicians or an assist from studio trickery. This recording features just him, a guitar, a bit of harmonica and some percussion, but it packs a punch, anyway, thanks to his skills as a straight-to-the-point songwriter and performer.
People around the world have heard Bill Carter’s work, even if they haven’t heard his name before. Carter is well known in his hometown of Austin, Texas, and to aficionados of Texas blues and rock, as an extremely successful songwriter. He and his writing partner and wife, Ruth Ellsworth have penned hits for a number of artists—from Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Fabulous Thunderbirds to John Mayall and Don Williams. Carter’s also brought him to the attention of movie star and sometimes-musician Johnny Depp, with whom he has performed from time to time, a gig that has led to appearances on late night talk shows.
On his new album, Carter reclaims some of his best-known work for himself in a stripped-to-the-bone approach that allows you to hear these tunes as if for the first time. Mostly, the album is the songwriter and his guitar and an occasional harmonica. Subtle swipes of percussion appear now and then, but they never push to the forefront. The focus is clearly intended to be on the songs.
This approach can be revelatory at times, particularly the album’s first song, Crossfire. Millions of people know it as a Stevie Ray Vaughn tune; radio listeners can probably hear the burning, fluid guitar solos leaping from a strong blues-rock beat just by mentioning the name of the song. Carter’s version features Texas-dry voice and an acoustic guitar. The music is sturdy but spare, revealing a simple tune with an appealing hook.
The recording harbors a few other surprises. For example, the lyrics to Why Get Up, made famous by The Fabulous Thunderbirds, stand out more clearly here, placing greater emphasis on the lonesome sentiment that is lost in the appealing novelty sound of the hit version.
Carter’s range of topics is notable, too. He has a few tunes with a social justice theme (Anything Made of Paper and That’s What I’m Doing Here), another song Stevie Ray Vaughn adopted (Willie the Wimp) that is about the funeral of a criminal and a tribute to a murdered prostitute with an unlikely name (Eva Bible).
More than half of the songs on the album are blues-based tunes, but he does offer up a few ballads as well. Anything Made of Paper is the tune most often associated with Carter. But for my money, Paris, which relates memories of a treasured sojourn in the city, is more than its equal.
When you listen to the album, you will hear what Vaughn, Mayall, Robert Palmer and many others have heard: songs you want to hear again and again.