Many would know Bob Carty from his outstanding documentary work on CBC”s Sunday Morning. For decades this award winning journalist has produced scintillating reports from all over and in particular Latin America where his fluency in Spanish came in handy. But unbeknownst to CBC listeners Carty has long had a secret life which a number of us have been delightfully privy to. Carty is a closet folkie and a a damn good one at that.
Along with the late Dave Graham and Paula Kriwoy, Carty was a regular in the Catholic underground (justice seldom came out full blown as an institutional commitment even in those years) in the 70s . Whenever there was a gathering of progressive Catholics (usually under the auspices of Fr. Tom McKillop) the trio was present offering their justice-oriented songs.
Now because of illness Carty has been forced to take a sabbatical from his radio work but he has been well enough to gather up some of his liturgical music and put it onto a CD. Voila—an outstanding collection has finally appeared.
Desert Eyes, Songs of Justice and Spirit is a very welcome addition to the many splendoured biblically oriented songs which have exploded into the Catholic (and ecumenical) cosmos in the past 30 years. These three decades have really been the halcyon days for liturgical music. Gone are the days of faux piety and extra worldly treacle which predominated up until the early 70s.
As the Catholic Church in the Council years discovered scripture and the reign of God as the prime metaphor of Jesus, liturgical music soon followed. The St Louis Jesuits and the Monks of the Weston Priory come immediately to mind and now Bob Carty has added his own distinctive voice with Desert Eyes.
The title is taken from a legendary gospeller of the American south-west Jim Corbett. Jim would lead retreatants into the desert with just a few goats to supply them with milk. It would take a least three days before they would finally see with “desert eyes.” As Carty says “they begin to understand that even in the most desperate times-even mid great evil and death-there is still life and hope.”
The refrain in the title cut sets the theme of hope in this marvelous collection:”We will walk with desert eyes.” And when we walk with desert eyes,”The Spirit still blows us to Thee.”
There are 21 cuts including brief antiphons,alleluias and hosannas not to mention a rousing Gloria.All of these are beautifully aided by adult and children choirs and the piano stylings of Bill Lamont and the extremely sensitive arrangements of Lamont and James Stephens.This is a beautifully produced work.
Several songs stand out in my judgment.Yes, good enough to reach my crowded ipod, I keep singing the refrain of the second cut:
Keep your heart open and strong
You know every night needs a song
Because the journey’s rugged and long
keep your heart open and strong.
Then there is the haunting Holy Thursday song, You Washed our Feet
If I have washed you, so you the other
If I have knelt before you, so you, one another
in this song Carty expresses his great admiration for Oscar Romero:You spoke the truth in Salvador, You spoke of God to the dogs of war.
Quoting from St Paul,the Quran, Upanishads and Tagore, Carty’s beautiful ballad Love Never Fails is perhaps the highlight of the album or maybe it is Psalm 118, God’s Love is Everlasting. Chacun a son gout.
We are grateful for Bob Carty’s musical contributions here, extremely accessible and biblically inspired. They reflect the author’s long time commitment to the kingdom road he has travelled all his life. Parish and youth groups in all denominations should lap this record up Check it out at http://bobcarty.ca and for the US market, http://cdbaby.com/cd/bcarty