MP3 Harley Carmen - Love & Loss
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12 MP3 Songs
COUNTRY: Country Rock, FOLK: Folk-Rock
Harley Carmen Bio
Harley Carmen remembers how, when he was five, heâd get into his fatherâs storage shed, break up old furniture to make âdrumsticksâ, set the vinyl-topped kitchen chairs up as âdrumsâ, and play along with the songs of Johnny Cash and Charley Pride. âLiving in a little place like Harrop, out in the Kootenays, it wasnât like there was a music store handy,â he explains.
Harley grew up surrounded by music. He recalls how his mother would suddenly just put the vacuum down, walk over to the piano and start playing what she called âmountain musicââsongs like âIrene, Goodnightâ and âWill the Circle Be Unbroken.â If his father were home, heâd play along on the harmonica, and his sister would sing. It was a big event for Harley when his older brothers came home for visits, because they played guitar and sang music by the âgreatsâ like Merle Haggard, Elvis, and Buddy Holly. He smiles and allows it was âpretty coolâ being the youngest in a close family. His first song, âLittle Brotherâ sums up those times: âThe best friends in my life are family.â
Harley continued drumming with broken chair parts, (demolishing the bongos at his elementary school in the process), until, when he was 12, he found waiting for him in the Carmen living room on Christmas morning a real set of drums. âIt was an act of pure self defense by my parents,â he grins.
Not long after, Harley was up at Lardeau visiting his brother Dean, who introduced him to Waylon and Willie, John Prine and Kris Kristofferson. He was so taken with the latterâs âSilver Tongued Devilâ that he gave the record to his mother for a Christmas present. Heâs still not sure who was more surprised when they opened their presents and realized theyâd given each other exactly the same record!
Later on, in high school, Harley got into The Who and the Rolling Stones, but still fed the country side of his soul with artists like The Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Bim (Roy Forbes) and the Eagles .
Then, when he was 17, he quit playing music. âI kept listening, but stopped playing.â He shrugs. âI guess hockey, girls and cars just seemed more important.â Then, at age 22, now married and working in Trail as a millwright, he bought a new set of drums and started practicing again. âProblem was,â he grins sheepishly, âwe were living in a trailer court.â
A year later, he was in his first ârealâ band, covering top 40. He remembers their fist gig, in the Salmo Hotel, and the first song they played, âSweet Home Alabama.â âThere were only about 15 people in the place, but they didnât leave, and at the end of the night, when I actually got paid, I felt like a frigginâ rock star,â he chuckles.
More gigs came, and one band evolved into another. Harley stresses, however, that he always had a day job. As he puts it, âI worked for a living, and played music for the love of it.â
That love of music made 1987 a big year in Harleyâs life, taking him to Vancouver, where he played âsome pretty hard rockâ with a number of bands for the next 12 years. They were writing their own music, now, so getting it âout thereâ often meant playing five nights a week. As he puts it, âYouâve got to love what youâre doing, to do it âtill three in the morning, then haul your butt off to work.â (âWorkâ now meant being a refrigeration mechanic, a trade Harley still practices.)
1987 was, too, the year he discovered Steve Earle, whose music would become a ruling passion in his life. (Even as he is telling me this, Harley is wearing a Steve Earle T-shirt and a cap with a lone star on it.)
And 1987 was also, tragically, the year his mom passed away, with his father following not long after. Listen to âPhone Call to Heavenâ, and âMy Fatherâs Birthday,â and youâll hear what I see on his face as he talks about losing his folks. âOwed to Fanny and Alâ similarly speaks about love and loss, (the title of his CD) and the need for more compassion in the world.
Even as a drummer playing hard rock in the big city, though, Harley and his wife, Kim, had been trading the bright lights for starlight, escaping on weekend camping and fishing trips to the country around Merritt; and one day he realized, as his song says, âLivinâ in the country is where I want to be.â So in 1995 they bought an acreage near Merritt, and three years later Harley moved up and started his own business. It did well, and he and Kim built their home here, on Pinerock Ridge. Harley has come home to the country.
Heâs also returned to his musical origins. In 1999, he started drumming with a succession of local country/rock groups. But they just couldnât seem to hold together, he remembers, acknowledging a truth known to anyone who has been in a band. Then, on Labour Day weekend, 2003, while camped at Alleyne Lake, his long-time friend Roy Code showed him three chords on the guitar.
âThat turned out to be a seminal point in my life,â he says. âIâd always written poetry, but I was never able to complete anything. But once I got those three chords down--G, C and Dâthe music and lyrics just seemed to come. The guitar let me take a thought and finish it.â
Some of those finished thoughts are in Harleyâs new CD. He captures the spirit of the community in the âMerritt Songâ, officially endorsed as such. Another track is about his animals, one of which is purring on my lap. Some are seriousââPleasure to Serveâ honours Kimâs grandfather and all veterans-- while âNot a Real Cowboyâ pokes good-natured fun at human airs and affectations.
But itâs time to go. I dislodge the cat, and as Harley sees me out, we hear a meadowlark singing in the dusk. âTheyâve got more than one song, you know,â says Harley.
I admit that I didnât know.
But as I get into my truck, Iâm thinking that we are going to be hearing a lot more songs from Harley Carmen. âBy Al Horne
People who are interested in Steve Earle John Prine should consider this download.
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