Review: "Carter Girl" by Carlene Carter

Carlene Carter CD Cover, Carter Girl

Carlene Carter, Carter Girl

Rounder, 2014 

Carlene Carter’s new release is a celebration of her roots in the first family of American Song. I have said elsewhere that Carlene is the rockingest of the Carters, a statement that this album both proves and happily challenges. In Carter Girls, Carlene melds her rock & roll style with the distinctive genius of Carter-composed works. Jim Keltner slings sticks, solidifying the rock feel of the album from the hard gospel “Little Black Train” through the ironic waltz, “I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight,” all the way through the final “Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow.”


And now a word about “Troublesome Waters, the duet with Willie Nelson. Singing with Willie has to be one of the most courageous choices a singer can make. His slippery phrasing feints and jabs, sidesteps the beat, all to keep the audience slightly off-balance, hanging on for dear life and, well, listening. It’s purposeful, mischievous and brilliant, and God bless her, Carlene stands her ground and comes through unscathed. It’s one of my favorite cuts.


Now, I’d follow Keltner anywhere, but what you need to know is, the SONGS seriously rock. The passionate edge of every Carter woman’s voice in the final cut leaves no doubt that ALL those Carter Girls rocked hard from the get. And here Carlene does them all proud, her voice providing a smoother setting for their harder edged vocals.  


Everybody misses John and June Carter Cash, their full embrace of the dark and light in American life and song. Nobody can replace them, but Carlene Carter is keeping the faith. The songs, arrangements and pacing of Carter Girl raise high the rocking Carter banner and all that’s left is to salute it. Thank you, Carlene for a worthy offering to be enjoyed and celebrated for years to come.


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