Roots Song of the Week: Carlene Carter- Little Black Train

CarterGirl144The first time I heard Carlene Carter was, I now believe, on Joe Ely’s Live Shots album. Heard, but not really heard, if you know what I mean. Around the time I was getting into Johnny Cash and Rosanne Cash- early ’83 this would have been- Carlene’s C’est Ce Bon fell into my hands, and while the reviews of the album weren’t the strongest, I loved it. Still do. I found her singing on various albums, and her ‘almost hit’ with Robert Ellis Orrall, “I Couldn’t Say No,” was maybe the best song of the winter of ’83. Around the same time, I found Carlene Carter in a delete bin (cut-out bin in the US, I’ve learned) and my musical obsession was in full bloom. I went back and found the other early albums- although Blue Nun took awhile- and loved each and every moment of them.

No one was more surprised than me when she made it huge with “I Fell In Love” and all the rest. I bought everything that had her name on it, and heck, I even bought a Southern Pacific cassette because she sang on one song. Each of the albums she released since those heady days has done less well on the charts, but the quality of her music has never wavered. Stronger was a formidable comeback five or so years ago- not perfect- and her new album Carter Girl, to be released next week, promises to be even better. It is a set of mostly Carter Family songs, and includes a re-recording of “Me and the Wildwood Rose,” maybe the best song she has written.

While some of Carter’s decision making could be questioned, she has always had great musical taste. She recorded “Baby Ride Easy” with Dave Edmunds, and brought the song to the attention of Johnny Cash, whose version with Carlene’s mother June, is featured on the recently released Out Among the Stars. Listening to her albums with many years hindsight, one continues to be impressed by the quality of her songs, even if the production values are sometimes dated. “Come Here You,” “Sweet Meant to Be,” “Easy From Now On” (with Susanna Clark), and “Cry”- those are great songs. She didn’t write them, but “Never Together But Close Sometimes” and “Love Is Gone” from the first album remain in my personal Top 1000, or would if such a list existed.

Carlene Carter is one of the few artists about whom I cannot be impartial. It is more important for me to be a fan than a critic. Give me that, would ya?

I haven’t yet heard Carter Girl but am pleased to direct you to where she and Rounder are giving away a download of the album’s lead track. One listen and I hope you’ll hear why I chose the song as my Roots Song of the Week. Yeah, that’s Elizabeth Cook singing on there!

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald


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