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Carlene Carter
Stronger
Yep Roc Records
www.yeproc.com


It's been a long road for Carlene Carter… from the new wave rock movement of the 70's through her brief pop career in the 80's, Carlene has developed her style and grown in the shadow of her mother, and now, finally, returns to the music of her heritage. Although she has tried country music before, it has always been more of a pop thing - a Nashville bastardized country. On her latest release Stronger, Carlene explores territory with which she is intimately familiar… real country music. Although there is the occasional foray into more pop-oriented territory ("Why Be Blue"), for the most part Carlene reaches back for her roots and holds on with all her might.

Album opener "The Bitter End" is a rocking tune with some excellent lead country twang courtesy of John McFee; who, incidentally; performs almost all of the instrumentation on the entire record. "Why Be Blue", despite its pop leanings, contains some great banjo rolls and a modified swing rhythm that helps the song roll along. By the time Carlene launches into the folky musings of "To Change Your Heart" her voice is reminiscent of the softer times when her mother June sang with The Carter Family. Her voice is beautiful and smooth, evoking memories of a greater time in country music and the easy Sunday afternoon sing-a-longs that so many mountain families came up having. She rocks out a bit on the fast-paced "I'm So Cool", but slows things back down for a Union Station-esque ballad with "Spider Lace." But where Carlene's voice really finds its resonance and power is on the incredible "Judgement Day," a song with orchestration and brilliant piano melodies offsetting the strength of the lyric.

From first glance at the cover of Stronger, it is evident that Carlene Carter has grown up quite a bit - gone are the hairspray-heavy 'dos and thick makeup. Instead, Carlene looks remarkably like her mother, simple and beautiful. Her voice on the songs only confirms this change in her heart and approach to life. Stronger may not be free of all Carlene's past efforts, but we are all made up of our past experiences… Carlene's have led her to Stronger, and we are all better for hearing it.

-Embo Blake

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