CARLENE Carter is third-generation country music royalty. Despite having written and recorded much fine music, the 58-year-old has spent most of that time in the long shadow cast by her grandmother (Mother Maybelle Carter, of the original Carter Family), mother (June Carter) and stepfather (Johnny Cash). It may be too late in the day to change that, but that does not diminish what has been achieved with this remarkable recording.
Carter Girl is a celebration of songs of the Carter family, while focusing mainly on the first generation. It does not contain the three most celebrated songs of her family line (the Carter Family’s Will The Circle Be Unbroken, June’s Ring
of Fire and her own Easy From Now On) but they are not missed. Well known fare I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight, Gold
Watch and Chain and Lonesome Valley 2003 (in which Carlene and Al Anderson update the Carter standard to include details of the passing of June and Johnny) and Me and the Wildwood Rose are joined by less familiar tracks Poor Old
Heartsick Me (written by Carlene’s aunt Helen)
and June’s Tall Lover Man.
Carlene has travelled some hard miles and proved to be made of tough stuff. Her voice, with its strong backwoods flavour, has never sounded stronger. The age of duet partners Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson is apparent in every syllable, yet the combinations work a treat.
Most of the songs are more than 70 years old, but such is the timelessness of the melodies and sentiments and Don Was’s production, they are presented in a contemporary setting. If this is your introduction to the Carter Family or Carlene Carter, it’s a great place to start.