Thursday, November 17, 2011

Homonyms: The Mountain

Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer: The Mountain


Steve Earle with The Del McCoury Band: The Mountain


A mountain is the product of geological upheaval, but it represents solidity. Dave Carter, in his song The Mountain, finds a symbol of spiritual truth here. Carter referred to many different spiritual traditions in his writing; I don’t think divisions between them were important to him. The Mountain refers to Native American beliefs with Carter’s typical economical eloquence. The song showcases Tracy Grammer’s voice beautifully.

Steve Earle finds both the solidity and the upheaval in his song The Mountain. Earle made the song the title track from the bluegrass album he recorded with the Del McCoury Band. The song is about a coal miner who has seen his home ravaged as strip mining replaced the traditional mining methods he grew up with. So, on the face of it, Earle takes the idea of a mountain more literally than Dave Carter. And yet, I think it’s fair to say that Earle’s song also has a spiritual dimension as well. For the album, Earle, by his own account, had to learn to sing. He was several albums into his career, and Earle had always done all of the vocals on his albums. But he had never tried to blend his voice with others before. I remember reading at the time how Earle had to basically start from scratch, and really learn how to use his voice. His performance of The Mountain remains some of the best evidence that all of that hard work paid off.

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