Catchy Americana debut by Texan songwriter.
Doc Carter has been releasing single tracks and E.P’s for a few years now, but “High Tide for Low Times” represents his debut album. Stylistically, it is the absolute epitome of Americana in style, taking in country, roots-based rock, blues and pop, and singer-songwriter stylings at times. Carter has a light tenor voice, and many of the songs utilise a similarly light acoustic guitar base to compliment it.
The album opens with “Heading West”, showing off a nice, funky-yet-relaxed, acoustic guitar/blues harp intro which leads into an easy-going song. “Stayed for Your Love”, meanwhile slows things down, and has the swampy sound that Dylan achieved on his collaborations with Daniel Lanois. “Taking It Easy” and “Wrapped Around You” harvest minor key grooves, the latter with an almost Stones-y swagger. “Vida Cana”, meanwhile, has a lovely, holiday kind of feel; it would be easy to imagine this being a huge hit in the hands of Zac Brown. Carter knows a hook when he hears one, and the music consistently benefits.
The last four or five songs on the album take it to a more thoughtful place, hinted at earlier by the stand-out title track. “Sunshine” and “Pour the Wine” have a gentle singer-songwriter feel, “To the Sea” has some unexpected but welcome effects within it, both musically and vocally. “Tomorrow” finishes the album with some folky finger-picking, and a pleasant tune accompanying a reflection on the times we’ve lived through. The pandemic has obviously been on the minds of songwriters as well as the rest of us; this one lyrically is an attempt to sum things up for Carter, but it does feel a bit too literal in its wordplay, and this feels like a recurring theme on the record, through what is otherwise an enjoyable musical journey.
An obvious contemporary to Carter would be Sam Outlaw, both in musical and vocal style. However, where Outlaw is able to seemingly effortlessly paint pictures with his words, weave stories that instantly draw the listener into the world of his characters with a deft poetic touch, Carter tends all too often to go for lyrical tropes which fit with the music around them, but don’t offer any sense of originality. A shame, because the music invariably provides an attractive backdrop.
Perhaps at 14 tracks and nearly an hour of music, “High Tide…” is a little longer than it needed to be, and certainly some tracks felt like they were not adding to the overall effect – although as has been noted before now, how many times people sit down to listen to a new album in its entirety in the streaming age is up for debate.
Overall, this is a solid debut rather than an inspired one, and more attention to lyrics which engage or surprise would be welcome. However, there is plenty to enjoy here, and anyone with an interest in catchy Americana will find this a likable offering.