Forty years of music means this man sings it like it is—and lives it, too
You would think that writing about a man with more than 40 years experience as a singer/songwriter, a man who’s been everywhere, done everything and who by rights ought to be famous throughout the world would be easy.
You would be wrong.
The fact is there is so much to say, so much ground to cover, so many tunes to discuss and so many anecdotes to relate that paring it all down to 500 words becomes a daunting task. Bob Carty (the REAL Bob Carty) is such a man.
Up until now, I had heard a handful of Bob’s tunes, enough to have some respect for the man’s talent, but it was only when I started to do a little research in preparation for this article that I started wondering why there aren’t pigeons peacefully…perching…on a statue of this guy somewhere. His talent is large and undeniable—but no less impressive is his legacy.
Bob’s great uncle was “Indian Joe Blackburn,” a star of the Grand Ol’ Opry in the ’40s. His cousin “Magic Marvin Proffit” was Merle Haggard’s sideman. As a teenager in Nashville, Bob had his own development deal right up until his producer tragically died in an auto accident and the big break that would have been Bob’s (touring with Ralph Stanley in ’76) went to some guy named Ricky Skaggs instead (maybe you’ve heard of him).
Carty spent the rest of the ’70s playing bass in a funk band up and down the East Coast. By the time he was 20, Bob had drifted out west, a laborer by day and a honky-tonk musician by night. He wound up touring dive bars of the South (wouldn’t THAT be a great coffee table book?) until eventually landing a gig as bass player for the Eddie Miles Band—and that only takes us up through the ’80s. There isn’t space to list the projects Bob has contributed to or been frontman of from then until now, so let’s just define what all of it means.
Bob Carty has legitimately lived the life most singer/songwriters pretend to have lived, would give their eye teeth to have lived. From head to toe the man is authenticity. Rough, calloused talent combined with a range of experiences that could inspire a dozen best-selling albums easily; Bob is Kris Kristofferson, John Prine, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Willie all rolled in to one with a healthy dose of James Brown to top it off.
In the end, Bob is Bob and it’s best to just accept him on those terms. Good lord, I just listened to a tune he recorded on the fly with a pocket recorder in a parking garage (“It All Goes Down”) and there is more depth and soul in that tune than in half the stuff I am sent on a regular basis. Every note Bob sings carries with it the gravitas of 40 years of hard, working-musician living.
Bob has a robust online presence through Reverbnation, Facebook and 423BraggingRights, so it should be easy enough to go sample his music for yourself. Listening to his tunes the last few days has convinced me of one thing in particular. Perhaps the greatest talent isn’t in the studio or plastered on a billboard. Perhaps, sometimes, the greatest talent is found in the dark and smoky backrooms of dangerous-looking dive bars, and there is a lesson in that for the intrepid music lover.
If you want to hear the good stuff, you have to go looking for it; you have to seek it out. You can’t just sit back and take whatever is delivered to you by an industry that values form over function, flash over substance.
If you want to try a taste of the good stuff around town, catch Bob’s next performance at Charles & Myrtle’s Coffeehouse on Oct. 17.
You’ll be glad you did.