The onetime country wild child brings her love letter to family traditions to The Cutting Room in Manhattan on Wednesday Night
You might think that it would be a no-brainer for a blogger who named his blog after a Carter Family song to write about Carlene Carter’s latest album, Carter Girl.
But you’d be wrong.
I’ve been listening to her wonderful collection of a dozen tunes — drawn from three generations of her family heritage — regularly since its April release. But I haven’t been able to bring myself to write about it.
But now, with Carlene stopping in New York City for a show at The Cutting Room on Wednesday evening, the time has come.
Carter Girl is a loving tribute to Carlene’s family, with songs taken from three generations — her grandparents’, the Carter Family, her mom June and stepdad Johnny Cash’s, and her own.
It’s one of the most heartfelt tributes imaginable, but one that maintains a clear artistic vision that doesn’t fall into a fawning tone. Carlene embraces her family heritage in a seriously loving way, sounding as good as she’s ever sounded.
In a way, Carlene seems to have reached a point in her artistic life much like that of stepsister Rosanne Cash. But while Rosanne used new songs to explore her roots and more on The River & the Thread, Carlene has tackled family classics to do the job.
Nine of the 12 tunes are credited in whole or in part, to Maybelle or A.P. Carter, her grandparents, who were the original Carter Family. One is her mom’s, one was written by her aunt Helen Carter, and the remaining tune — the unabashedly sentimental tale of her grandparents, “Me and the Wildwood Rose” — by Carlene.
The album features Carlene in some memorable pairings — Willie Nelson duets on “Troublesome Waters” in a version that brings to the fore its heritage as an old Protestant hymn (Fanny Brice’s “Blessed Assurance” from 1873), Elizabeth Cook on the Carter Family take on a traditional song subject, “Blackie’s Gunman,” Kris Kristofferson on “Black Jack David,” another classic reinvented by the Carter Family, and Vince Gill on “Lonesome Valley 2003,” another Carter Family classic re-imagined by Carlene and Al Anderson as a take on her mother’s death.
She won’t have her star helpers with her when she takes the stage at The Cutting Room. But a reviews of her Oct. 12 show in Boston suggests that Carlene and her guitar are more than capable of putting across the Carter Girl tunes, along with some old favorites and some unrecorded gems, quite well.
You’ll be sorry if you miss this show.
If You Go
Carlene Carter performs at 7:30 p.m.. (doors open at 6:30), Wednesday, Oct. 15. The Cutting Room, 44 East 32nd Street, New York, NY. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 on day of show, and available by tapping or clicking here.