• courtesy of No Quarter Records
  • Bob Carpenter

It’s no secret that in the music business, the business is often the biggest enemy of the music. The Canadian singer-songwriter Bob Carpenter provides an excellent but depressing case in point. In 1973 the folk-rocker signed a deal with producer Brian Ahern (well-known for producing some early classics by Emmylou Harris), who had his own arrangement with Warner Brothers Records. Together they made a lush, literate album called Silent Passage. Carpenter didn’t like working in the studio, and on many of the tracks he cut his acoustic guitar parts and vocals and left Ahern to overdub strings and other instruments; among the musicians appearing were Harris and Anne Murray as backing vocalists and Little Feat’s Lowell George on bottleneck guitar. When the album was finally completed, with copies already pressed and ready to ship, Carpenter’s contract with Ahern was near expiration and the pair tried to come to terms on a new deal without success.

Carpenter wasn’t crazy about Ahern’s production and he held out until his contract expired, assuming that he’d be able to land another deal. The polished folk-rock sound captured on the album was beginning to lose its commercial appeal, however, and Carpenter never ended up making another record. He died from brain cancer in 1995. The album sat around until 1984 when the Canadian roots label Stony Plain finally released it with little fanfare. Prodded by enthusiastic support from the great fellow Canadian singer Doug Paisley, Mike Quinn of No Quarter Records (which releases Paisley’s music) gave the record another chance last fall. At times I find the strings a bit goopy, but there’s no denying the power of Carpenter’s raspy voice, the subtle strength of his guitar strumming, and the rich melodies floating over the ambling grooves. For today’s 12 O’Clock Track you check out the album’s title track below.