Dean Carter - Songs Without Words, Vol. 2 (Album Review)

You have to leave a place to appreciate coming home. When Glastonbury-based musician Dead Carter was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, a form of chronic fatigue syndrome, he had to move away from his work with his group Dean Carter and the High Commission and focus on his health. However, this detour led Carter to the world of healing arts, where music therapy gave him a way back to his connection with the musical realm. Carter has since become a music therapy practitioner and teacher, and this balmic aspect of music is present in his recent collection, Songs Without Words, Vol.2. 

The album sees the artist execute his simple, rolling acoustic guitar lines with an effortless purity and indifference to pretence. His compositions never rush or aim to impress. Instead, there's an almost utilitarian aspect to their patient application of hypnotic, easily identifiable melodies. 

The songs themselves, while wordless, have a narrative function. For instance, "Unspoken" switches between sad and optimistic expressions, eventually finishing simplicity. Meanwhile, the movements of "Music Box Waltz" are stirringly romantic, "Father Figures" switches gear to steel string and introduces some ominous synth tones and chord structures, somewhat of a distraction from the mostly softly struck nylon strings of the surrounding tracks, but it helps add texture to this otherwise sonically simplistic record. Elsewhere, "Blithe" is a lighthearted jaunt, and the joyous highlight "Mabon Dawn" is simultaneously darkly introspective and rosily pretty. 

Production-wise, beyond multitracking, there's no ostentation, no effects, no fancy studio (faraway birdsong, breath, and room noises are audible), and ostensibly not much time for second takes, with some ignorable mistakes adding a sense of human error. However, these are minute details, and Carter's vision is naturally more meta in its overall purpose, most notably on the sprawling sixteen-plus minutes of "Proliferation", which doesn't ask much from the listener as it ebbs and flows with spiritual focus.


Undeniably calming and introspective, Songs Without Words, Vol. 2 by Dean Carter has a rough and ready charm that lifts it above its amateur roots and disinterest in style to speak truth to music's redemptive and healing power.