BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Redoubtable singer and songwriter Carlene Carter made one of her many comebacks in 2008 with the appropriately titled Stronger, and while it’s taken her a few years to follow it up, Carter Girl is worth the wait. Rather than present a new set of her own songs, however, the daughter of June Carter Cash instead celebrates her family legacy with songs written or popularized by the legendary Carter Family.
Smartly, Carter and producer Don Was bring these tunes into the second half of the 20th century, giving them a modern Americana sheen instead of trying to recreate the sound of pre-WWII hillbilly music. Thus “Poor Old Heartsick Me” receives a 60s Bakersfield makeover, “Tall Lover Man” bristles with country rock energy and “Little Black Train” boasts a growl like a late 80s John Hiatt record. Pals and fellow Carter Family acolytes drop by as well; Wille Nelson adds his distinctive phrasing (both vocally and instrumentally) to “Troublesome Waters,” Elizabeth Cook harmonizes on “Blackie’s Gunman” and Kris Kristofferson duets on “Black Jack David.” Carter also includes remakes of her self-penned tributes to the Carter matriarchy “Me and the Wildwood Rose” and “Lonesome Valley 2003,” lovely songs that just get better with age.
As does Ms. Carter herself – she long ago proved herself worthy of the family legacy, but Carter Girl would be a highlight of her substantial discography regardless of familial stamp.
DOWNLOAD: “Me and the Wildwood Rose,” “Little Black Train,” “Tall Lover Man”