Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Story of her life

Ah, Deana Carter, an artist I probably would never have even noticed if it weren’t for the fact that she is a friend of a friend. And thanks to that friend, I had the pleasure of seeing her perform, and meeting her again, at the Universal Amphitheatre last night.

Now, although I do like good country music, no country music fan would consider me a country music fan. The only country artists I like seem to be those that are pretty far outside the mainstream Nashville establishment: Hank Williams 3, Wayne Hancock, and of course, the luscious Dwight Yoakam. But Deana is a wonderful songwriter, more southern folk/rock than country, and therein lies her problem.

After the success of her country album “Did I Shave My Legs for This” and the crossover hit single “Strawberry Wine,” Deana fell off the music map, in spite of great reviews for her subsequent releases. Was it her label’s lack of promotion that contributed to that slide? Oh, yeah. Whether that lack of promotion was a conscious decision to punish an non-conforming artist who wanted her songs produced her way, or whether the label was simply at a loss to promote an artist who didn’t fit one of their rigid molds, I can’t really say. But for sure the label screwed her career. And that’s a shame.

It’s a shame because she has a beautiful voice, her new tunes are tasty, and her band kicks ass, especially her brother and lead guitarist, Jeff Carter. (Deana and Jeff’s dad: legendary session musician Fred Carter.)

Something else that was a shame was the heinousness of the venue last night. The sound quality is good there, but because of Universal’s inexplicable curfew restrictions, the concerts always start way too early for a town where it takes an hour to get ANYWHERE, and hence the opening act, which Deana was, must play to a house that starts out at about 20% capacity and swells to about 60% before her set ends and the 30 minute break between acts begins. So Deana played mostly to an audience that was paying more attention to their nachos than to her.

Also, she seemed a tad subdued, almost mournful. Perhaps the fact that she was opening for Keith Urban, who used to open for her, was not lost on her. Certainly it was his crowd, as evidenced by the faux-country hoochie girls pole-dancing sans pole with conspicuous faux-abandon and the all-hat-no-cattle cowboys who know, and SING, every word of every song and emphasize their favorite parts by thrusting plastic cups of beer into the air. Keith is the new “new” country hottie with the good hair and the ironic name, and although he plays like a demon and mixes up his own well-crafted countryish pop tunes with some well-chosen covers, there’s just something about him that doesn’t sit quite right with me. An exuberance that seems a bit too calculated, perhaps.

I dunno, maybe he just needs to tone down those highlights in his hair a little bit.

But anyway, I’m hoping that the new independent label does well by Deana Carter, and that LA, where she now mostly lives, is a better place for her to make her music. It seems like the Nashville establishment was pretty much done with her, and jesus those pricks can be unforgiving.

Good luck girl. Make more good music.

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