Dave Carter was a shooting star in the world of folk music.
He won the first Sisters Folk Festival Songwriting Contest in 1995 with his ballad “Gun Metal Eyes,” a song of modern day defiance and resistance by the son of a Seminole Rebel and a Cherokee Princess.
Dave Carter and the Sisters Folk Festival sort of grew up together, musically speaking, and by 2002, Dave and his partner Tracy Grammer had broken through to whatever “stardom” folk music affords. That summer, Dave died of a massive heart attack at the age of 49.
Though we only communicated sporadically, Dave and I were friends. We shared a taste for Cormac McCarthy and an appreciation for the mythic resonance of the American West. One evening, after a show, we got to talking about Billy the Kid and I mentioned the Kid’s alleged preference for the double-action Colt .41 Thunderer. A few months later, Dave called to tell me “.41 Thunderer” was now a song.
The pistol as Demon Lover…
In fair silver city on the blind side of fate
I grew up to manhood on the narrow and straight
But prideful I stumbeled, and foolish I fell
In the silken fine trammels of a cruel Yankee belle
Slender and wicked, flame in her eyes
Pearl white and nickel ’round the curve of her thighs
Smooth as dry whiskey, but cold to caress
She slid like a viper from her tooled leather dress
.41 Thunderer, Colt repeater
She’s a silver-tongued wonder and a mean mistreater
Six-eyed Delilah, brazen and bold
Now it’s stand and deliver, and fire in the hole
.41 Thunderer thunderer turn loose o’ my soul
I feared not the lawman nor the thief in the night
Nor angel nor devil when she went by my side
And her hunger burned blazes till it felt like my own
Her wanderin’ heart drove me wild and alone
We rode out from Canaan in search of our fortune
Or something’ worth dyin’ for, beauty or evermore
Over the blackwater flats with her jackrabbits running
Under a sky burnin’ brimstone and reckoning
Sweet for the hope of rain
And the sand in your teeth grindin’ tiny white diamonds
To moments of loss that you cannot explain
So come demon lover when the long night is through
And sing me your lullaby, simple and true
For legends will tarnish and trigger will rust
And the road over glory come to ashes and dust
Tracy Grammer is still out there singing Dave’s songs. Long may they ring.
Jim — excellent piece. I still miss Dave a great deal, and have many fond memories of time spent with him. Remember a post-Festival breakfast at The Gallery where we picked his brain about the appropriate evolution of the SFF, and the sound advice he gave us? You and the SFF gang have stayed true to that advice, to the benefit of all.
Ah, your pens turning phrases including “mythic resonance” and “she slid like a viper from her tooled leather dress” — you two are kindred poetic spirits. Thanks, again, Jim, for your stories, “short tales?”