Album Reviews

Bill Carter

Innocent Victims & Evil Companions

Artist:     Bill Carter

Album:     Innocent Victims & Evil Companions

Label:     Forty Below

Release Date:     02/26/2016


Another early best of 2016 arrives via Texan Bill Carter, who 28 years ago made an album produced by the Allmans’ and Stones’ pianist Chuck Leavell that featured not only Leavell, but Stevie Ray Vaughan and his big brother Jimmie, together on guitars.

Mostly, Carter’s a celebrated songwriter who penned hits for the Vaughan brothers, Waylon Jennings and Ruth Brown, among many others. Knowing that, it’s surprising this is the same Bill Carter at the helm of Innocent Victims & Evil Companions. His songs here breathe in wide-open spaces, often far removed from straight-ahead blues-rocking and Americana. “Black Lion” gets it all moving, insistent and strong; the bold, clever wordplay and horn-prodded chorus of “hey-hey, ooh-ooh” harking back to the hippy daze of the 1960s. “Recipe for Disaster” then hits like a Jersey boardwalk plank with a cornstalk swish—the free and easy sentiments recalled about John Lennon crying for peace sound terribly incongruous right now. “Lost in a Day” then gushes forth in relief, orchestrated to call to mind Roy Orbison and “It’s A Beautiful Day” (remember their great “White Bird?”).

Carter sings potently of the pure joy of living, but the pumping, gliding “Bughouse in Pasadena,” with its vivid, sordid scenes takes the cake. Grooving to it—the horrors some actually deal with daily—feels wrong, but oh so mandatory. The contrasts and the deep craftiness of those first four alone certify this album. The characters are alive, the music stirs the soul, and your leg turns into a pile driver. And, it’s far from over. “Last Tear” touches the heart, and “Fisherman’s Daughter (Delaney’s Song)” recalls the beat-up, Exile-era Stones honky-tonkin’ down in Texas. Incredible playing by some of the Lone Star State’s best musicians seals the deal. An aside: search out rare copies of that ’88 album Loaded Dice, and its quick follow-up, Stomping Grounds. They’re excellent too.

—Tom Clarke

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