June Carter Cash tapped heavily into her grandfather A.P. Carter’s vast song catalog for the final recorded sessions (circa 1998-2003) captured by Dualtone. The result is an affecting gasp of true warts ’n’ all old time country music with a back porch feel.
There are notable song duplications on the “Best of” and “Church in the Wildwood” sets, which were released at the same time (“Keep on the Sunny Side,” “”Hold Fast to the Right” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”). Yet the aforementioned selections play best in the context of simple Carter Family gospel. Such staples as “Church in the Wildwood/Lonesome Valley” and “Diamonds in the Rough” are gentle, atmospheric reminders of backwoods faith. The wisecracking “Meeting in the Air” still rings with tent revival fervor. Mother Maybelle Carter’s classic tear-jerker “Kneeling Drunkard’s Plea,” is a vivid example of gushing mother love that was once vital to country music.
Johnny Cash’s distinctive background baritone can be heard on both discs but is especially effective on the gospel chorus of “The Far Side Banks of Jordan” and “Hold Fast to the Right.” Janette Carter, Joe Carter, and Dale Jett combine with June for a solid example of rustic family harmony on the vibrant spiritual “Anchored in Love.” Carter Cash herself takes an impressive turn with her own paean of sacred searching, “Wings of Angels.”