Trailer Park Rangers

"If you only get one chance to see a local band, make it the Trailer Park Rangers"

Sunday July 23rd, 2006
Press Democrat
John Beck

Mobile-Home Mash-Up

From the March 29-April 4, 2006 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.
With diverse American roots, the Trailer Park Rangers create a musical mélange

By: David Sason

Imagine if, after completing his landmark album King of America 20 years ago, Elvis Costello had continued working with those legendary session players, delving deeper into American roots music. Then imagine that his lyrics were more funny than angry. Next, imagine that all the different styles were combined into each song, with blues guitar, bluegrass fiddle and shuffling jazz drums melding in a seamless Americana orgy. Now, imagine this blend with Leonard Cohen and XTC's Andy Partridge trading lead vocals. Add the Beach Boys to backing vocals, and you're still only scratching the surface of the sound of the Trailer Park Rangers, a western Sonoma County sextet that fuse American musical forms like never before--and continue to evade adequate classification.

Even singer-songwriter David T. Carter can't describe his band properly. "It's lyrical and it's musical," he says, with his blunted Australian accent. "You can dance to it, or you can watch it." During a recent show at the Tiburon International Film Festival, Carter simply told the slightly puzzled but still-dancing crowd, "We're influenced by '50s and '60s American groups." Then he took a request for a waltz number.

Labels are pointless for Carter's exhilarating music, which coalesces bluegrass, rockabilly, jazz, country-and-western, blues and rock and roll into his own creation. Even ska finds its way into the mix on the song "Drag Queen," where fiddles and swing horns trade licks over an unrelenting drumbeat. "There is a connection between reggae, ska and country that I always thought was evident," says Carter. This would be a crazy statement had Willie Nelson not released a reggae album last year.

It was a long trailer ride to the North Bay­style roots-fusion for Carter, but music is in his genes. Born in 1964 in Sydney, Australia, he was raised in a very harmonious household--his mother was a choir singer and his father was a jazz musician. The constantly spinning jazz records were a point of contention between him and his dad. "I liked jazz, but for me, jazz did not have enough humor in it," recalls Carter, who also relished hearing country singers Charlie Rich and George Jones on the radio. His father, he says, "did not appreciate somebody like Johnny Cash and understand his musical worth."

At age 14, Carter was "inflicted" with what he calls "the language of song" when he watched a film of Neil Young performing. But after picking up a guitar, he soon learned his eclectic taste was out of step with his peers in England, where his family had moved. "While everybody was listening to punk, I was listening to Slim Whitman," Carter says. "This is a man who wore a pair of white loafers and a cardigan, and I thought he was darker than any of those punk guys--this guy was generally a dark soul." He eventually found success in genre-mixing when he heard Australian guitarists the Emmanuel Brothers. "Tommy [Emmanuel] was a Chet Atkins disciple," he says. "That was the perfect hybrid of jazz and country, and that's exactly what I loved."

After stints in several wide-ranging but artistically unfulfilling bands, Carter finally made his pilgrimage to America. "I was trying to create something that is uniquely mine," he says of his move to L.A. "I just wanted to play my music." But once again Carter was out of step, as hair metal still ruled the local music scene. "It only took me three months to drink all my money away," he remembers. "By the time I came to San Francisco, I had $60 in my pocket."

The Bay Area music scene proved more heterogeneous for Carter, and he started playing open mics around the city. Soon, he added a fiddle player, then a mandolin player and before he knew it, he had formed a full band of like-minded players. "The rhythm section was the hardest thing to put together," he recalls. "I remember going through a lot of drummers, trying to find so many different takes, rhythm-wise."

With a great band willing to indulge his diverse musical fancy, Carter needed just one more thing: a name. His then-wife thought of the name Trailer Park Rangers, which Carter loves as a tool for surprise. "[The band] has everything that perhaps you would not be expecting from white trash people," he says.

Although the band name may sound like an episode of The Jerry Springer Show, Carter doesn't subscribe to the pervasive snobbery directed toward impoverished mobile-home residents. "Look at where I was raised," says Carter, who grew up around refineries, a prison and directly next door to a garbage dump. "We were about as low down on the ladder as you could possibly get, but we were a happy family--by no means were my parents white trash." Actually, the band's name is benign compared to one of his former groups back in Sydney, the Mudbuttons. "'Mudbutton,'" he explains, "is another term we use for a dog's asshole."

The name certainly evokes the rural origins of all the styles' respective sources, and is perfect for Carter's migrant lyrical themes. "It's road music," says Michael Houlihan, offering his own definition of the band's sound. The founder of Barefoot Wine Cellars has been a very active supporter of the band ever since they first played a winery event back in 2004. Houlihan believes they're the antidote to the poison of today's unoriginal lyrical landscape. "So much music today seems to be trite, you know, 'I'm going to put a cap in your head' or 'My girlfriend's ran off with my dog.' I've heard it before."

One of Houlihan's favorite Rangers songs is "California," which explores the disillusion of our state's paradise-seeking newcomers. This motif of mobility makes sense, considering Carter's life. "I got used to being that dude that walked into the classroom with everybody staring at me," he says of his many childhood relocations. Carter even drives a white Bronco, a car infamous as a getaway vehicle. He feels kinship with his band mates in this regard, both literally and musically. "We're very much drifters and wanderers," he says. "We don't really belong to any one thing."

Houlihan has dubbed the group's music "the soundtrack to the wine country," a circuit that usually books cover bands. Carter recalls that the Sonoma County music scene was just as unexciting. "At the time I moved up here in '96, most of the circuit up here was comprised of white blues bands," he remembers. "Granted, they're all good, but we were the only really cutting-edge, original band that was around." Carter has seen some progress, though. "Over the past 10 years, we've seen the scene get better and better," he says optimistically. "I think that Sonoma County is really starting to become a little like Austin." But there is still no band that sounds like the Rangers, Houlihan reminds. "It isn't rap, it isn't country, it's not jazz, it's not blues, but it is certainly a fusion, evocative of all those roots," he says, giving proper description another shot.

"I call it progressive roots music."

Some may see their experimentation as part of the ongoing alternative country phenomenon. Their new song "Missing My Baby Somehow" sounds very Wilco-like with its midsong crescendo, rising for nearly 30 seconds before crashing back down into the danceable melody. But if there's a connection, Carter doesn't see it. "I like the odd song that I hear from those bands, but they're almost a little too aware of a genre rather than the song," he says. "Rather than to prove something genre-wise, my goal is to always find that song."

While purists may criticize the Rangers' fusion, Carter is undeterred. "I love pure forms of music," he says. "I can't listen to bluegrass all night long, though, and I can't listen to jazz all night long." The Rangers have certainly found allies in diversity: their audience. "You'd see people with Mohawks standing in front of me, then the old blue-haired lady, all in the audience at the same time," says Carter, remembering a show at the now-defunct Old Vic. "That's one of the most successful things to do as a writer, which is not to create a private little club for one set of humans."

With a growing fan base and recent talks with Sacramento's Dig Records, there soon may be even more fans trying to find a fitting description. But it's getting more difficult by the day. "It's kind of a dark, loungy, sexy, more of a soul groovy thing," Carter says of their upcoming album Let the Cards Pick the Winners. Sigh. OK music lovers, let's try again.

Copyright © 2006 Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

Greenman Review

By: Mike Stiles

While the mainstream US music scene limps blandly through its sheltered adolescence, the Trailer Park Rangers are running full throttle out at the frontier. They kick up more home-grown American musical wit in one song than most alt-country bands do in an entire CD. The Trailer Park Rangers are David T. Carter doing vocals, guitars, and jaw harp, Joe Kyle Jr. banging out bass and vocals, Dave Zirbel putting out mighty pedal steel guitar, Chip Trombley on target with drums, vocals, and waterbottle, and Oliver Meissner with fleet fingers on the violin.

David T. Carter is an Aussie who has brought a fresh perspective to the scene. His impressive guitar resume includes influences like Chet Atkins and Commander Cody. Although his vocals tend to verge on George Jones, his singing style is too varied, refined, and well-executed to pigeonhole. And his band really comes through with a decade of expertise working with him.

The Rangers debut effort is Lullabies of All the Mess. “Someday starts out his plucky little bastard of a CD with a variety of barnyard sounds and a lazy Sunday morning hangover version of “There’s no place like home” that morphs into one of the more conventional country songs on the album. The second song “Goodnight Ilene,” also comes across as a conventional country song and features some fine guitar solos. By the fourth song, “Suitably Safe,” all bets are off with a superb whistle solo, and the listener is well outside the country mainstream. The vocals in “Lust in Space” are a delightfully deranged parody of Jimmy Buffet. The remaining numbers are a totally unique blend of reggae, bebop, acoustic jazz, swing, and ragtime that will have all the stray cats in your neighborhood lined up on the fence for a listen. The next-to-last song, “Holding on to you and me,” features some actual crooning and a dazzling solo by Charlie Blacklock on the magical musical saw. “Meet you by the river” closes out the CD with a reprise of the saw and more poultry sounds. The second CD, Everyone’s a Winner, is a glorious surprise because it’s even more innovative and crosses wider musical boundaries than Lullabies. The opener, “Everyone’s a Winner in this Town,” gives up some fine drum, guitar, and pedal steel combinations.

The lyrics lay down an appropriately sarcastic comment on how the limitations of small town life are mostly self-imposed. The play list then dips into various influences, like reggae (“The World’s Loneliest Circus”), Tex-Mex/yodeling (“Aurellio Goncalves”), and space weirdness (“Night Rider”). “Shanghai Cowboy” is an exquisite meld of country and the Far East, a combination that has been rarely tried with success since “Girl Maid in Japan” from Buck Owens. “Ghost Train” is an arrangement that easily rivals anything ever put out by John Hartford. “The Ballad of Harry Black” asks some truly dark questions about the complicity between the Union and Big Business. It’s an irreverent piece, the product of our age in an America that needs all the iconoclasts it can get. Winner wraps up with “Rosalee,” a slow and snaky tune that lets the loose ends of your mind come together on the dance floor to commemorate unrequited love.

The Trailer Park Rangers stand should to shoulder with other innovators of Roots Americana like R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders and the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Their CDs are living proof that country music is anything but a museum piece in this day and age.

CD Review, Maverick Magazine, U.K.

By: Loudon Temple
It’s a bit like taking a whistle-stop ride on all of the fairground attractions at an amusement park one after the other. By the time you reach the end of track fourteen, you’re left feeling exhilarated but a little light-headed from the dizzying over-indulgence of it all.

The quirky five-piece combo have been turning out their own distinctive West Coast take on life with a fair shake of tongue-in-cheek humor since their 1996 album, “Lullabies of All the Mess” raise eyebrows. That was the recording that one reviewer described, almost in Aussie-speak, as “this plucky little bastard of a CD.” Pluck, main man David T. Carter, most certainly is Australian too. He sure as hell isn’t the kind of dude who’s afraid of taking risks. The whoopee Jim Kweskin-meets-Railroad Earth effect is pulled off with the kind of flair that has won bands like the Waybacks a fair stateside following.

It’s easy to see how San Francisco has taken to the irreverent style of the Sonoma County good-timers. It’s not weird, but ‘different.’ Ten years ago, Chad Crumm’s wonderful occasional band , the HIX produced an album with similar Bohemian qualities, and Crumm and Carter are for sure, bedfellows from the same school of alternative thinking. And as for that whacky almost fairground vibe, there’s a track called “The World’s Loneliest Circus” and another entitled “Ghost Train.” Comparisons with Dan Hicks (“Front Row Souvenirs”) and Commander Cody (“Night Rider”) are entirely understandable. There’s a fascinating blend that has an almost Gene Vincent/Jonathan Richman feel on “Night Rider,” and that same Modern Lovers influence is also there for all to savor on “New York Fascination.”

The over-all sound is rootsy and country and musically, they are pretty damned hip and jazzy, with pedal steel maestro Dave Zirbel soaring to spectacular heights and violinist Oliver Meissner in startling form. The rhythm section is a happy marriage too as Pete Jungschaffer on upright bass and percussionist Chip Trombley hold it tight and together nice and simply. The pace flips towards Tex-Mex for the entertaining “Aurellio Goncalves,” while “Shanghai Cowboy” is a smile-inducing and perfect east meets west confection.

Despite the exemplary playing and solidly entertaining songs, country purists might find this is just too much of a feel good pill to swallow. But anyone who gets excited about inventiveness that is intelligent will find the Trailer Park Rangers compulsive listening.

Loudon Temple, CD Review, Maverick Magazine, UK Rate: * * * * (and a half)


Not squarely country

They've got the twang but the lyrics are much more imaginative


Just last week, during intermission at a local songwriters show, I was enjoying a sidewalk stroll on a relatively balmy early October evening. The stars glittered above the dimly lit downtown streets. Smoke from a nearby chimney spiced the autumn air. Then a musically minded buddy of mine shattered my idyllic reverie with a four-letter-word: work. In his deep Napa drawl, he editorialized, "You know what, Kramer? You ought to write somethin' purty about the Trailer Park Rangers." As my editors (and significant other) will tell you, I don't always take kindly to such direction. Unlike most of the musicians I know and/or admire, I seldom take requests. But then, only yesterday, country music filled the taxi that shuttled me out of the historic downtown district of Charleston, South Carolina. And, I'm trying to heed signs of harmony from the universe: coast to coast country. With that said, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, this Friday, to the Larkspur Cafe' Theatre: The Trailer Park Rangers !

First off, I wanna make it clear that the music of guitarist David T. Carter and his four horsemen is a round peg in the square hole of country music. Sure, the requisite elements of cowboy culture are present. You bet, that's the pedal steel guitar twanging and a fiddle keeping it company. And, yes, one or two songs from the Trailer Park Rangers two recordings can pass for straight-ahead country. But if I'm gonna pigeonhole anyone's creative work, I'm gonna do it as accurately as I can. And that's why I'm planting this North Bay troupe within the expansive shade of the musical tree called Americana.

Carter's soft Australian accent talks, sings and croons its way through lyrics that are consistently imaginative, sometimes quirky, and once in a while humorous. More subtle than the wink-wink humor of the Austin Lounge Lizards, Carter's lyrics every so often slip slyly like the hand of a high school boy into sensitive areas. Songs do walk a familiar path along love stories and tales of loss, regret and woe, yet they're presented with literate invention that avoids treading through the treacle of anything maudlin or melodramatic.

There's even something artistic and tasteful about the black and white images adorning the Trailer Park Rangers two albums, Lullabies of All the Mess (1993) and Everyone's a Winner (2002).

Some numbers, "The Night Watchman" for instance, are reminiscent of 1970s Eagles, with harmonizing backing vocals riding over a slow fiddle. Other songs - most notably "Naples" recall pre-iconic R.E.M. The Trailer Park Rangers also ride through the piano lounge on "Baby, You're the life of the Party." At every turn, the music is impressive, especially the versatility of guitarist Rick Miller's fingerstyle playing. Appreciative nods also to violinist Oliver Meissner, and Dave Zirbel on pedal steel.

For an outfit with only two recordings in 10 years, this band's been impressively active lately. Among many other gigs, they provided live music for the recent California Film Industry Gala in San Francisco, and last month's Russian River Fest benefit. And, they have two new recordings in the works, supposedly both ready for release by the end of this season. They're already titled, The Black Knight is King, and Two Star Canyon.



First of all, I have to admit the truth: The Trailer Park Rangers are one of my favorite Sonoma County bands. Originally formed in 1991 as a Bluegrass band, singer/songwriter David T. Carter has transformed the band of stellar musicians into a truly groundbreaking unit. Their music is an eclectic grab bag of all things Country. Styles range from folky ballads to Western Swing with everything between.

Of all the venues I’ve seen them in, The Tradewinds is the most comfortable. A favorite haunt for North Bay music lovers, it offers live music five or six nights a week.

I grabbed my usual barstool to enjoy the first of many beers and hear some good music. The Trailer Park Rangers started of the set with a handful of slow ballads. As the tales of dysfunctional people in desperate situations unfolded, the band created an ambient soundscape. Dave Zirbel’s swirling steel pedal guitar and Oliver Meissner’s soaring fiddle weaved lush harmonies around the songs. The crowd, a mixture of Tradewinds regulars and SSU students, responded to the shifts in tempo. With an upbeat number entitled “Howlin’ Moon, Whiskey Smile” every foot was tapping. The band continues to play original Honky Tonk,

Nearing their break, I realized I had consumed my first ATM transaction. Waiting for more beer fundage to process, I noticed a crowd across the street. I staggered over to The Inn of the Beginning, where finishing their show were Cheap Date 13, an all-girl Punk Rock trio that seriously rocked! But I’m a sucker for a girl with a Les Paul. My microbrew finished, I realized it was time to go.

Back at the Winds, TPR had already begun a Western Swing tune. Drummer Chip Trombley and upright bass player Joe Kyle, Jr. laid down a solid Rockabilly groove. Meanwhile the steel/fiddle combo played a musical game of cat and mouse, exchanging licks. Next a quirky song ... “Lust in Space” – an ode to the original space slut, Captain James T. Kirk. The raucous romp, complete with cosmic sound bytes, was a crowd pleaser.

As the night drew to a close, it was time for the final song. The only cover tune in over three hours of music, it was a good one: Gram Parson’s classic “Drug Store Truck Driving Man” (I’ve always liked that song.)

To fully grasp this review, you must experience it yourself. The Trailer Park Rangers play their brand of Hillbilly Jazz frequently at the Tradewinds – free of charge.


Burning Ambition

Sonoma County's latest crop of local CD's, ripe for the pickin'


One of the best live bands in Sonoma Count, the Trailer Park Rangers hitch up a sad, cry-in-your beer-then-drink-it brand of country music by way of Australia where lead singer/guitarist David Carter grew up listening to Chet Atkins and hillbilly music. Recorded in the SSL room at Prairie Sun Studios in Cotati, “Everyone’s a Winner” is awash in melting minor notes, dreamy slide guitar runs and Carter’s hard-luck ballads filtered through melodic Aussie pipes.

The title track is not as blindly optimistic as it sounds: “Everyone’s a winner in this town, just load them up with monkey s--- and let them tow the line.” Opening with helter-skelter jazz and morphing into rockabilly, “Night watchman” finds drummer Chip Trombley filling on the mike. A hoedown instrumental, “Ghost Train” gives Oliver Meissner a chance to show off his violin chops. Carter, whose addictive voice has the warmth of Jim Morrison on a song like “Moonlight Drive,” is a throwback to Ramblin’ Jack, Roy Rogers and as far as Turlough O’Carolan. It’s not surprising that one of the simplest songs, “Repo Man” is the most memorable, coaxing with broke-down lyrics like “Porn shops love you when you’re down/ bankers love you when you’re broke/ Ownership is a ship that sails all around/ And don’t sink till it’s full of holes/ Ain’t you the TV in the porn shop/ Ain’t you the house left to the bank/ Didn’t I have a thing to tell you/ Baby I’m your Repo Man.”

Dave Carter and his Trailer Park Rangers

Soaring chord progressions, ethereal harmonies, uplifting pedal steel and fiddle lines and an eclectic mix of styles and influences –all elements of expatriate Australian Dave Carter’s independent debut album, Lullabies of All the Mess.

Like the pensive meditative portrait of saw player Charlie Blacklock (whose instrumental No Place like Home opens and closes the album) featured inside the album’s booklet, Lullabies of All the Mess tugs at the heart strings as well as the skin, the kind of album you can’t help but get goosebumps over and which reminds you of why you’re here.

Like the album’s art work’s main focus, the humble American trailer, Carter himself looks comfortable in his home town of the past six years, San Francisco, California. It’s a reality evident in his speech, still tinged with a west coast twang that’s slowly waning as his extended Australian visit continues.

1997 wasn’t a great year for Dave Carter, marked by the sad loss of his father, his best friend and greatest inspiration. Formerly a pick up jazz pianist with a list of credits featuring everyone from Johnny O’keefe to the Bee Gees, it was Jack Carter’s death late in 1997 that brought Dave back home, a visit he had been planning, but not in the manner in which it turned out. “I came back cause (my) Dad died,” he explains. “It was one of those bizarre things, nobody saw it coming. I had a lot of things planned to play with him because I basically did my apprenticeship over there (in the US), left an amatueur and came back a better musician,” he says. “A lot of what I was over there,” Carter continues, “was always with my Dad in mind. I was planning on…spending some good quality years with him. Basically his spirit, by hook or by crook, brought me back here.”

It was Jack Carter’s influence that led to Dave’s earliest musical dabblings, which been when he first picked up a guitar at the age of 15. With his father’s encouragement he soon developed an affinity with jazz chord progressions which in turn attracted him to the country swing of artists like Chet Atkins, Slim Whitman and the King of Western Swing, Bob Wills.

“I was a late starter,” Carter explains, “but I was exposed to a lot of music because my Dad was a musician and my mum was a singer. At 16 or 17 I went and saw Tommy and Phil Emmanuel, who had a band at the time, and that was when I saw Tommy Emmanuel play the Chet Atkins style of guitar and heard the song Windy and Warm, which Chet is famous for. “The whole world of country music opened up for me when I saw that style of playing, “he says. “I did my first gig when I was 17, in a restaurant on my own, just singing folk songs…rather than going out and playing in (punk) bands which is what a lot of (my) friends were doing (at the time). I guess I was…more interested in soaking stuff in, and I really hadn’t found my voice,” he reflects.

Carter believes it took him almost 10 years to find his voice, at which time he decided to leave Australia in search of a more conducive creative environment to enable him to start his career from scratch.

“I went to San Francisco in March ’91,” Carter explains, “(after) I hit LA. I (basically) drank my money in LA, it was a bad town for me. Consequently, when I had $60 left –I had a ’76 Dodge Dart and a guitar –I left town and headed up to San Francisco, ‘cause a friend of mine needed a ride up there. By that time,” he recalls, “ I didn’t really have much choice but to get my shit together, ‘cause I didn’t have a dime, and it was right in the middle of the recession in ’91.”

“The Trailer Park Rangers started out as a duo with me and a mandolin/ fiddle player, then (went) to a three piece bluegrass outfit to the eventual line up (of) pedal steel, fiddle, upright bass, drums and me on guitar.” “You’ve either got honky-tonks, little tiny bars or you’ve got the big venues where you really have to be an act. There’s no in between.”

“In Australia, “ Carter says, “you’ve got your middle ground like your RSL clubs and you do get paid better for your gigs. San Francisco is always going to have a core of original venues, it’s pretty consistent (with) Sydney. Here you can get exposure a little more quickly than you would over there.

“(America’s) a country where people are taught that the most important thing is somebody who’s on the TV or the radio and so everybody goes for it. Consequently you just see bands come up there and get signed and they’re gone within six months. It’s a real machine, without a doubt. It’s definitely a bigger machine there, and they all get churned around and disappear within a few months,” Carter says. Just before his departure for Australia in late ’97, Carter secured distribution, albeit limited, for Lullabies of All the Mess, but it’s more than he has been able to achieve locally so far.

“Things have been going well (in Australia insofar) as I’ve been getting gigs…I snared distribution just before I left America, with City Hall Distribution,” he explains. “We’re talking peanuts,” he contends, “38 CDs distributed on the west side of America. I had interest from a national booking agent there who was interested in taking us on but we didn’t have enough CD’s out there to warrant them a taking a chance with us,” he continues.

“Things were starting to come together there, and I was starting to get supports with a couple of national acts that would come through too, but you know, family comes before business, so there wasn’t much I could do about it.”

“So far I can’t get distribution on it in Australia, one guy said ‘Personally, it’s my kind of album, I like albums that move around a bit, don’t stick to the one thing,’ but he said as far as marketing the CD (was concerned), it just isn’t niche orientated, so he couldn’t do anything with it.” “Which is kind of crazy to me,” Carter says, “Because I figure if it’s not niche orientated, there’s a category there for it already. Every distribution company, every record label, every manager that I’ve spoken to, there’s times where they really like it but they’re not willing to take a chance on it because it doesn’t stick to one thing.”

“There’s a song on there,” for instance, “that’s almost a cross between country and reggae, In “Silence,” and even in “Howling Moon” there’s kind of a reggae turnaround in a song that’s got a western beat. And a lot of that has to do with how my picking kind of evolved from that Chet Atkins thing, obviously I can’t play like Chet…all you can do is be influenced by (others) and come up with your own groove.”

“I think hillbilly pop would be a good heading for (the album), “ Carter says. “I’d say (it’s) Chet Atkins, Slim Whitman and Bob Wills meets Sid Barrett.”

“I don’t think it’s a band or one of those albums that appeals to an era of people, rather than a certain person and you respond to melodies and you’ve got an open mind, you’ll go with it.”

At this stage, Carter is unsure about his future in Australia or the US. “I will go back,” he explains, saying “a lot depends on what happens here. Obviously I’ve got a life over there too… it’s become like a second home to me in a lot of ways.” “The first few months were bizarre when I got back here,” he reflects, “ the fact that I had been away for six years, but then with (Dad) dying, it was even more bizarre. But I’m kind of a believer in all these things happening (for a reason),” Carter concludes. “I don’t feel I know what the reason is yet and I guess time will tell, but I do honestly feel like (Dad’s) spirit brought me back here for a reason.”

Lullabies of All the Mess is available at Trailer Park Rangers’ upcoming engagements: Sunday Feb 15, Commercial Hotel, Balmain.

Riding Airstream to space and back


Any CD with a song on it called “Lust in Space” is going to get a listen from me. Good space rock is hard to come by, these days. (Where is David Bowie when you need him?)The Trailer Park Rangers’ “Lust in Space” is not as blatantly whacky as the Byrd’s “Hey Mr. Spaceman” from 30 years ago or Fugs founder Ed Sanders’ underground classic “Yodeling Robot,” but it’s still pretty far out.Bearing a dedication to “The Original Space Slut, Captain James T. Kirk,” this musical tribute to the Star Trekker who slept where no man had slept before sounds like what you might expect if David Byrne and Crocodile Dundee got drunk together in a bar one night and started singing.In fact, the whole CD sounds like that, in spirit, at least. The instrumental delivery is accomplished and precise.Led by Australian singer and guitarist David T. Carter, the San Francisco-based acoustic quartet also includes bassist and singer Joe Kyle Jr., pedal steel guitarist Dave Zirbel and drummer and singer Chip Trombley.Aided on the album by guest fiddler Douglas Adams, musical saw virtuoso Charlie Blacklock, and others, the band combines slick country swing and bustling shuffles with the abstract lyrics of alternative rock.At first listen, some of the songs seem like rambling non-sequiturs, but folksy ones. (It makes one want to sing, “I’m a rambler, I’m a gambler, I’m a non sequitur.”)I’ve been listening to “Lullabies of All the Mess,” the Trailer Park Rangers’ debut album, on and off for a week now, and I feel an urge to hit the highways (or even spaceways) in a chrome, dome-backed Airstream trailer accompanied by a cloud of dust and spirited fiddle music.Some of the songs demonstrate what might have happened if Bob Wills had embraced existentialism. My favorite lyric, from a song called “Silence,” is dancer like a leaf, floating like a lonesome tide, laughing like clowns…”If you’re one of those people who professes to hate country music because the lyrics are full of clichés, this album may be the solution to your problem.The CD has a mood and style all its own.As Carter’s promotional packet colorfully puts it: “Recorded at Prairie Sun Studios in Cotati, the album was mixed using the natural reverbs of an empty chicken shed…”“Lullabies of All the Mess” is far-out, down-home and, in a round-about way, straight to the point. The point of modern life, the songs seem to say, is figuring out how to feel about it.If all this strangeness sounds good to you, you could just order the album outright for $15 from Trailer Park Rangers, P.O. Box 236, 1634 Bryant St., San Francisco, 94103. Or phone (800) 926-1363.But if you’d like to hear the music for yourself before you buy, you’ll have four chances to see the Trailer Park Rangers “live” within the next few weeks.

The band plays at 8p.m. March 16 at the Tradewinds in Cotati, holds its Sonoma County CD release party at 9pm March 22 at the Powerhouse Brewery in Sebastopol, and returns to the Tradewinds at 9:30 p.m. March 29. The Trailer Park Rangers also play April 5 at the Hopland Brewery. San Francisco dates include the SF CD release party 9:30 p.m. March 20 at the Hotel Utah and 6:30 p.m. April 13 at the Bottom of the Hill.