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Artist: Jason Carter
Label: Independent 
Time: 9 Tracks / 52 minutes

Given that he is one man with a guitar and he doesn’t sing, Carter can make his albums feel quite different from each other.

This one starts with samples of the North Korean Military Orchestra and Choir, Martin Luther King and Dwight Eisenhower. Guitar is the track along which the train of samples runs and the whole piece sets the tone for the message that his instrumentals reflect. 

In the cover, Carter comments on his travels, noting that suicide rates are highest in developed lands such as Switzerland, Finland and Japan. But he has been to many countries and has found in nations such as Afghanistan, Mozambique, Iran and Uzbekistan that those who struggle hope, those who hope dream, and those “dreams inspire future.” Several tracks, such as “Different Worlds,” the title track and “Lament,” reflect such struggle without the music being difficult to listen to.

Some of the early tracks would easily fit on his earlier In and Out of Time. While this disc is a bit stronger, it still takes a while to fully get going. The beautiful “Pühajärve” (‘Holy Lake’ in Estonian), was inspired by a sunny morning by the eponymous lake. It begins with Carter striking the treble notes on his harp guitar with a pencil to produce a shiny hammered dulcimer effect before moving into a meditative classical mood. “Just for a Day” has a similarly sunny feel. It came from a nighttime train journey, wishing he could be a boy again for a short spell, innocently playing in the sea in Cornwall.

With the more upbeat “You Shine,” Carter introduces bolder melody and some sparkling interludes from the high harp strings.

“Lament” is the longest and strangest piece on the disc. It features a 1977 recording of a “crying woman.” There is a Finnish tradition of these women singing at funerals to help mourners grieve. The style is somewhat distinctive, sounding quite distraught and even punctuated with burps! 

It is one of several pieces at the end of the disc, which have been in his head for some years and their quality reflects that maturation process. Another is the lovely “Guten Morgen,” which features some wordless vocals from Hannah Featherstone. In places she displays a definite Karin Bergquist feel to her voice. The collection ends with “Abide with Me,” a mix of melody and improvisation on a hymn tune that reveals his faith more directly.

On this release, Carter is far more comfortable with his harp guitar, using its features where they suit, rather than as a new toy to be constantly played with, which is how it sometimes seemed on his last disc. It is a strong blend of his various styles, from political samples to gentle acoustic playing, shot through with faith, reflection, invention and purpose.

Download: Güten Morgen, Abide with Me, Pühajärve, You Shine (and for the more daring, Lament).

Derek Walker


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