Born in 1947 and raised amid the mundane track housing that had sprouted across post-war Detroit, Rob Carr felt a strong pull toward the rural from a young age. His self-taught acoustic guitar style reflected this pastoral nature, drawing influence equally from John Fahey’s American Primitive and Peter Walker’s flamenco-tinged raga. At nearby Michigan State, Carr advanced quickly with the help of learned dormitory peers, eventually joining the local folk music club. There he met Bill Kahl, a talented guitarist just a few years older, though miles more experienced both in life and in song. For Kahl, their initial 1967 encounter was a blur of codeine-rich cough syrup and spiraling guitars, a confused haze that birthed a confident songwriting duo.
In and out of school, Carr remained diligent about music while nurturing a passion for wildlife photography. When his induction notice arrived in 1969, Carr entered an antagonistic exchange with the local draft board. He was spared, thanks to a technicality, and life in East Lansing resumed its orderly pace. Plans were made for Carr and Kahl’s debut LP, which would focus heavily on their intricate, interwoven guitar work. Communication 1, issued in 1971 as a one-off on the duo’s Grotesque label, caused no greater stir than a passing mention in Guitar Player Magazine. Hidden amongst the record’s playful sketches, with provincial names like “Teddy Bear’s Jig” and “Potato Salad King,” is “RNB II”—short for “Runny Nose Blues II.” Only two of the album’s songs feature vocals, and even the “RNB II” lyric is a petulant afterthought at best. As Bill Kahl’s problems with drug addiction took over, so did Rob Carr’s fascination with the camera. Save for a few unissued sessions taped in the wake of Communication 1, neither wrote nor recorded again.
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