Chicago, October 2016
The first time I heard Mississippi Gabe Carter was through a CD I bought by Old Gray Mule called Sound Like Something Fell Off The House. He was guest vocalist on the track Rivers Risen Y’all. His voice was haunting. I wanted to find out more!
I did so in the traditional way and we ended up friends on Facebook.
I bought a couple of downloads from CD Baby and was hooked. His guitar playing was something else. I kept hearing a slightly different Junior Kimbrough – he had the same mournful soul feeling. His voice was something like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan , the Sufi devotional singer.
Gabe Carter knows a thing or two about devotion. He’s a deeply religious man, after all. His record label is called Lord And Gabe Records. To borrow one of his album titles, he was born to preach.
In 2016 I’d planned a trip with my partner Gina to the USA to attend The King Biscuit Blues Festival in Arkansas, staying over the river in Clarksdale Mississippi. Just before we left Australia the line up for the Deep Blues Fest was announced. A four day festival that follows Biscuit, Cathead and The Pinetop Homecoming Festivals, The Deep Blues Fest had Gabe Carter playing on the last day at four o’clock in the afternoon .
Gina and I changed all our arrangements to be there and see this guy in the flesh. We had three days to kill between Fests and drove all round Mississippi visiting blues markers and museums and graves.
On day three of Deep Blues I was at a gig to see Mark ‘Porkchop ‘ Holder supporting James Leg and got chatting to a bloke called Dale Beavers. I told him I was really looking forward to seeing Gabe Carter the next day.
He said, “Oh man, he’s cancelled! He got an offer to record with some producer in Memphis.”
I was gutted!
I said “How do you know this?”
He said “Man, I’m his drummer.”
I couldn’t believe it! I contacted Gabe Carter on Facebook and he apologised, saying he had limited time, etc.
I thought, Oh well, next stop for us is his home town Chicago. Maybe we’d see him play there.
Gina and I had been to four festivals by then and feeling a bit fested out, went back to Memphis to get the train to Chicago.
After we arrived I contacted Carter again and said we were in town, is there any chance of seeing him play? He replied that he had a gig coming up. In a month.
I thought, again, Oh, well…
A while ago Carter wrote online that a record store in Chicago now stocks all his CDs. I thought I’d go and pick up as much of his stuff as I could.
I Googled the way to this store and found myself in mid-town Chicago looking for the number 6 bus. I got a bit lost but knew I was close. After some time and a long walk I eventually found 1377 East 53 RD Street. Hyde Park Records.
I browsed the blues section but found only one of his CDs: I Was Born To Preach The Gospel.
I thought, What is it with this guy? He’s so elusive!
It was about then that a man walked in singing a song to himself. Something about what a great day it is. I glanced over and saw a young white guy pushing a pram with two beautiful twin girls. I looked away and continued browsing.
Then he was opposite me on the other side of the rack. I stared at him. He looked at me, then quickly looked away.
We did this twice. After the second time I said, “Excuse me, but are you Gabe Carter ?”
He said, “Yes sir, I am.”
I introduced myself as the Aussie guy who’d been stalking him. We shook hands, embraced. I met his kids.
I said, “Wow, what a coincidence.”
He said, “No it’s not!” It was obvious to me he was talking about divine intervention.Gabe Carter saw our meeting as an act of the Lord.
I bought I Was Born To Preach The Gospel but was too caught up in the moment to ask Carter to sign it. One of my favourite tracks on it is Holy City. It’s a loose cover of Junior Kimbrough’s Meet Me In The City. It’s a great song and Gabe does it some righteous justice!