Thursday, May 1, 2014
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: CARLENE CARTER - CARTER GIRL
The first thing you notice about this album is that every song is credited to Carter. Then you notice only a couple of them are Carlene. The rest are from her famous family: Mother June, The Carter Sisters and the original Carter Family, pretty much the monarchs of country music. Carlene has been making her own music since the late 70's, but this time she's honouring the family name, and perhaps cashing in on it a small bit as well.
With a band of top pros led by producer Don Was on bass, Carter claims the lineage with updates of several of her uncle A.P.'s classics, including Give Me The Roses and Black Jack David. For some of them, she plays it relatively true to the originals, but others, such as Little Black Train, the numbers are rocked up a bit, to show how they can be modernized and retain their quality. It's only a partial success; there's an awful lot of instruments and a mighty thwack from drummer Jim Keltner. Carter has a nice, sweet voice, and she sounds better with the acoustic instruments.
She brings back one of her own numbers, the lovely and autobiographical Me And The Wildwood Rose, about growing up with those famous folks, being a kid in the back seat, hearing them sing, and learning from her grandmother Maybelle and her mother and aunts. Interestingly, the songs she does best here are the ones she chose from the strong women in the family. Her mother's Tall Lover Man sees her bring out her best growl. Maybelle's Troublesome Waters is treating with devotion, which it deserves.
It just seems there should be a better album in this. Perhaps they were trying too hard; star guest duets with Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Vince Gill add little. There are too many heavyweight players around, and we're reminded way too often of her heritage in the booklet. In the end, I have to think it should have been a simpler project, truer to the originals.