Saturday, October 9, 2021

Doc Carter: “High Tide For Low Times” (2021) CD Review

It was the album’s title, High Tide For Low Times, which got me interested in the first full-length album from Doc Carter (he’s released several EPs and singles). That title just gets straight to how things feel these days, and hints at change in the near future. Doc Carter is a singer and songwriter currently based in Texas. This album features all original material written by Doc Carter. Joining the singer on this release are Jeremy Long on keyboards, dobro and pedal steel; David Leach on percussion; and Matt Grundy on all other instruments. Matt Grundy also produced the album.

The album opens with “Heading West,” its catchy groove and excellent work on harmonica right at the start immediately working to pull us in. Doc Carter’s vocals have a sound that is both friendly and experienced. Here are the song’s first lines: “I’ve been staring out this window for what seems an eternity/Looking for some kind of answers from all the people that I see/In this refuge from the cold, it’s just me that I deceive/I can’t stay a moment longer, I’ve got to set myself free.” And yes, heading west still holds that appeal, carrying with it that sense of pursuing one’s dreams. “How many years have passed me by, how many days have gone?/It’s time to pull myself together, it’s time to find a new dawn.” It’s never too late, and this song’s cheerful and positive vibe seems to urge us on. “Don’t try to stop, don’t try and stop me now/I’m a-heading west, and I’m going to get there somehow.” And I love that harmonica lead in the track’s second half.

“Taking It Easy” is also catchy in its own way, with that cool intro and rhythm. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I got nowhere to go/Taking it easy/Taking it slow/Let these feelings/Come and go.” And of course there is something appealing about these lines: “There’s no need to worry/About impending doom/I’m taking it easy/Ain’t giving up soon.” We all need some encouragement these days, and this song provides it. That’s followed by “Stayed For Your Love,” a sweet song featuring some nice work on harmonica, and a gentle, loving sound that is incredibly appealing. “Call it luck or fate that brought me here/I followed the stars running away from my fears/There was no turning back, and no guidance from above/I came for your beauty, but I stayed for your love.” This is one of my personal favorites.

“High Tide For Low Times,” the album’s title track, begins with some percussion, a beat that echoes in a somewhat ghostly manner, setting the tone. “Life ain’t always easy/And it’s a struggle to win/Nothing is certain/Nothing’s for free/And the best thing I’ve got going/Is having you here with me.” Oh yes, those lyrics ring particularly true. The last couple of years have caused many of us to put things into perspective, and adjust our priorities. “I’m looking for good signs to come across our path/But it’s a high tide for low times.” This is a song for our times, to be sure, and it also offers us some encouragement in lines like “Do the best you can/Try to keep your head high/There’s no shame in hard luck.” Folks need songs that reach out to them, particularly in times when many feel estranged from society. “High Tide For Low Times” is followed by “Goldie,” a more cheerful number with a good rhythm. “It’s the times when we don’t quite know/What we’re looking for.” And I dig that work on electric guitar. Then “Vida Cana” is a pleasant number, a song that feels like a vacation, and if you close your eyes, it might just take you someplace warm and wonderful and relaxing. I like that work on pedal steel. This one was released as a single.

“Lucky” is another song of our times, with lines like “You know the world has changed forever, I’m afraid/And we can’t forget the price that’s been paid” and “The strain of this time has torn us all apart.” And these lines of course speak to us: “The troubles that we share won’t soon disappear/Into thin air/The end is still unclear.” And I appreciate the Shakespeare reference (in The Tempest, Prospero says “These our actors,/As I foretold you, were all spirits and/Are melted into air, into thin air”). This track also features a good instrumental section. Doc Carter then offers some advice in “Open Your Mind”: “Open your eyes, babe/Open your mind/Open your eyes, babe/It’s your time to shine/Don’t make excuses/And don’t tell no lies.” This heavier, rocking number features some good work on keys. In “Fallen Angel,” he sings, “Of all the angels I’ve known, why would I pick a fallen one like you?” This is a track that has grown on me.

“Wrapped Around You” is a bluesy number about trying to unravel the mystery of that special person, or at least trying to understand her. “Some days I think you love me, then you push me out your door/I can’t get my mind wrapped around you.” “Sunshine” is another that was released as a single, and has a pleasant vibe and a pretty sound, particularly that work on keys. That’s followed by “Pour The Wine.” Doc Carter’s voice is perfect for these sad, soulful songs. “You’ll be back again/I just don’t know when/You’ll come walking through that door/Pour the wine, I’ll spill my heart/‘Cause tonight I need a friend/For this broken heart to mend.” And toward the end, he tells us, “We got along just fine/Found our own way in time/But you never came back through that door.” There is something beautiful about this song, in part because of its honesty, and it is another of my favorites. Then “To The Sea” has an interesting, unexpected opening. This is another track that has grown on me, though I could do without the beach sound effects at the end. The album concludes with “Tomorrow,” a song about trying to return to life after this pandemic, and the urge many of us have to travel. It begins with these lines: “I want to jump a plane tomorrow/And see the world once again/Spent too much time in a bubble.” But of course the pandemic is not over, mainly because certain people refuse to get vaccinated. This song also touches upon all the misinformation out there, which of course has led to more deaths. “Most every source seems corrupted/Words less to inform than to enrage.”

CD Track List

  1. Heading West
  2. Taking It Easy
  3. Stayed For Your Love
  4. High Tide For Low Times
  5. Goldie
  6. Vida Cana
  7. Lucky
  8. Open Your Mind
  9. Fallen Angel
  10. Wrapped Around You
  11. Sunshine
  12. Pour The Wine
  13. To The Sea
  14. Tomorrow

High Tide For Low Times was released on August 13, 2021.

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