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Carlene Carter

Carter Girl – 2014 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Carlene Carter

It might have been easier, and certainly less emotionally taxing, had Carlene Carter just recorded a batch of Carter Family songs using vocal muscle memory alone. However, as soon as you hear Carter describing the losses of loved ones during "Lonesome Valley," you realize right away this is not just some sort of capitalization on a revered family name. It's a personal testimony.

With expert production help from Don Was and a bevy of country stars and top notch Americana musicians, Carter brings these songs to full life. For instance, Willie Nelson's distinctive warble during "Troublesome Waters," comes through pure and sincere. This is not just another Nelson duet appearance. Like Carter, he fully feels the power of these burden-lifting lyrics while he's singing them.

In many respects, singing these songs must have been therapeutic for Carter. It's as though she needed to assure herself that the extended members of the Carter Family - particularly the ones that have since passed on - are still watching over her. "Life goes by in the blink of an eye/Your body's just a suitcase for your soul," she sings during "Lonesome Valley 2003." "And when I lay my head down tonight," she continues, "I know they're right there smiling down on me."

Surely, if this music can be heard in the heavenly realms, there's a whole lot of smiling going on.