Valerie Carter - vocals; Fred Tackett - guitar; Joachim Young - electric and acoustic piano, synthesizer, vocals; Stanley Mulelland - bass, vocals; Sam Cox - drums, vocals; unknown - saxophone
A gifted singer and talented songwriter, Valerie Carter remains that rare commodity that is driven by musical creativity alone with little ego involved. She's worked with an impressive list of artists over the years, singing backup vocals for the likes of Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Lowell George,k and countless others. She also wrote Judy Collins's 1973 hit "Cook With Honey" and has penned songs for albums by Jackson Browne and Earth, Wind & Fire. Carter's career began as a teenager in a trio called Howdy Moon. The trio consisted of friends Jon Lind and Richard Hovey and they were signed to A&M in 1974. Their self-titled debut was produced by Little Feat founder, Lowell George, who would become a major influence, collaborator, and mentor to Carter. When the group disbanded, George actively encouraged Carter to pursue a solo career, co-producing her critically acclaimed debut album, Just A Stone's Throw Away, which was released on Columbia Records in early 1977. A testament to her talent, Carter was able to recruit a remarkable assemblage of musicians for these sessions, including well established singers like Linda Ronstadt, Maurice White, and Deniece Williams. Jackson Browne played piano and guitar; Toto's Jeff Porcaro sat in the drum chair and both Little Feat members, Bill Payne and Lowell George, contributed to the sessions.
Upon the album's release, a fine new road band was assembled, which featured former Boz Scaggs/Steve Miller keyboardist, Joachim "Fly Like An Eagle" Young. This recording captures Valerie Carter just as she was beginning to take her own music to the stage. On a triple bill with comedians Cheech & Chong and the band Orleans, then at a peak of popularity, this outdoor festival-type show captures Valerie Carter near the launch of her solo career, before a dauntingly large audience. Promoting the aforementioned debut album, Just A Stones Throw Away, this performance focuses heavily on that material and although not physically present, Lowell George's influence is clearly felt.
The recording begins in progress capturing the tail end of Carter's soulful original, "Ringing Doorbells In The Rain." A quieter approach begins "Cowboy Angel," a song Carter co-wrote with Lowell George. Here the lone acoustic guitar with just a touch of synth from Joachim Young, leads into ruminations on lost love. The tasteful accompaniment provides plenty of room for Carter and the expressiveness of her voice soars with heartfelt conviction.
Next, Carter and her band kick up some southern-fried funk on Little Feat's "Sailin' Shoes." Unreleased by Carter herself, she delivers a delightfully engaging performance. This is good time party music, with Carter belting out her vocals, plenty of finger popping bass, and a brief sax solo to spice things up. Lowell George's presence is also felt on "Heartache," an introspective piano ballad co-written by George that was graciously offered to Carter during the sessions for her first album. This sensual look at romantic disappointment has a wonderful delicacy that doesn't lack for power or soul. Carter ends the set with her compelling arrangement of the late 1960s hit, "Ooh Child." Carter slows down the tempo, finding a delicate balance between soulful rock and smooth jazz to end the set.