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Carter Family

Give Me the Roses While I Live – 1997 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Roy Kasten

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CDs by Carter Family

What is most gratifying about Rounder's nine-volume (and nearly 150 songs) overview of The Carter Family's Victor recordings is the novel-like narrative they tell.

1932 was a year of severe changes for the family: A.P. Carter had signed a new contract, reluctantly surrendering his royalties to future recordings and agreeing to record exclusively for Victor. His wife Sara was threatening to leave and take their children with her. In 1933, she did just that, moving from Clinch Valley back to Cooper Creek.

In the thick of these changes, the family recorded 11 of the 15 songs included here. Most were cut in Camden N.J. in 1932, in one session and in one take. The songs tell of faded or betrayed love, and often spiritual wonder and sustenance ("Will the Roses Bloom in Heaven" and "The Sun of the Soul"). Sara's singing is dazzlingly emotive, the heart of the trio, and despite the turmoil of their private lives, the trio's harmonies never sounded better.

Their choice of material, as always, set a great standard for early country music.