It's been a long road for Carlene Carter
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
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.
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