The Carter Family – Across Generations – Reviver Records 

by | Sep 25, 2019 | Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 2 comments

The Carter Family – Across Generations – Reviver Records RR1909-1 [10/18/2019], stereo vinyl 40:12 ****1/2:

If there was a First Family of American music, it would undoubtedly be The Carter Family. When they first recorded in 1928, it was widely considered to be the birth of Country music. The group consisted of A.P. Carter (who wrote and produced, but was not an instrumentalist), Sara Carter who sang lead vocals and played rhythm guitar and sister-in-law Maybelle Carter contributed lead guitar. Maybelle’s technique of playing lead and rhythm together, known as Carter Scratch was trend-setting. Songs like “Wabash Cannonball”, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” and “Keep On The Sunny Side” are intrinsic facets of musical culture. Their utilization of tight harmonies drew on gospel and shape note singing. They entered into popular culture with a twice daily radio program on border station XERA. Maybelle began singing with her daughters (Anita, June and Helen) and the family “business” persevered. Daughter June married rockabilly star Johnny Cash and the Carter Family reached wider audiences, especially with Cash’s television show. A third generation of Carter Family musicians included John Carter Cash (son of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash). There are now five generations of players. This family was inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame (1970), Grammy Hall Of Fame (1988) and International Bluegrass Hall Of Honor (2001).

John Carter Cash has produced a unique album, The Carter FamilyAcross Generations. Utilizing modern technology, classic songs from the Carter family have been remixed with contributions from 5 generations of performers. At the core of this album (available on vinyl, CD and digital) are the “roots” songs of A.P. Carter. Side One opens with a version of the traditional country gospel waltz, “Farther On”. Sara Carter’s uplifting, haunting vocals are amplified by Adrianna Cross (5th generation) and Dale Jett (3rd generation). There is the customary adroit guitar picking (original and present day). The first A.P. Carter tune, “My Clinch Mountain Home” (first recorded in the late 1920’s) has a bouncy Appalachian flow with tight harmony vocals, even some yodeling. This represents the authentic formula of the Virginia sound. “Gold Watch And Chain” distills the commitment to love with gospel undertones and a danceable tempo. “Worried Man Blues” is a brilliant composition by the Carter patriarch. The Carter Family recorded the song in 1930, and Woody Guthrie immortalized it ten years later. Ramblin’ Jack Elloitt, Burl Ives, The Stanley Brothers and George Jones have also covered this acoustic folk blues anthem. The gorgeous harmonies are rendered in a lively musical context. Despite the imagery of despair (“…29 links of chain around my leg…”), an aspirational refrain (“I’m worried now, but I won’t be worried long…”) is reassuring. The deep rich harmonies on “Winding Stream” almost transport the listener to the Grand Ole Opry. The heartfelt emotion of “I Never Will Marry” underscores the depth of country songwriting. The contemplative look at fate is also done in 3/4 time signature and features June Carter. Switching to up tempo, “Amber Tresses” has old school plaintive soprano vocals.

Side B is notable for an original song, “Maybelle”. Written by third generation members John David Carter and David Carter Jones, this is a fitting tribute to a country music icon. With four acoustic guitars and bass, accessible vocals and two-part harmony resonate. Returning to pure gospel roots, “Diamonds In The Rough” details the faith of “…When Jesus comes to claim us…” It is comfort for the soul in 3/4 time. Another reminiscence about Virginia is rendered on “Don’t Forget This Song”. With a slide guitar, this somewhat fatalistic observation (…Doomed for eternity…”) balances itself with the refrain, “…May forget the singer, but don’t forget the song…” Again a great turn of phrase by A.P. Carter. With bluegrass potency, “Foggy Mountain Top” is heartwarming and upbeat with ever changing lead vocalists and a nice dose of yodeling. “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” is a part of the American cultural fabric. A simple tune about death and heaven, this is a hymnal with tempo. This version (and there are several noteworthy ones) has a swelling multi-voice chorus with different lead vocal combinations. The second verse with female leads is very compelling. It is grandiose and perfect for “big vocals”. In an inspired example of album sequencing, the finale is a newly discovered electric autoharp instrumental from “Mother” Maybelle. Her solid technique and feel good spirit permeate the music.

The Carter FamilyAcross Generations is more than a country music album, it is an historical document. John Carter Cash has brought some modern aesthetics to the classic recordings, but the inherent authenticity remains. Country music fans and hopefully those unfamiliar with this genre will give this album a listen.

Carter Family Members:
Sara Carter; Anita Carter; Helen Carter; June Carter Cash; Johnny Cash; Lorrie Carter Bennett; Ana Cristina Cash; John Carter Cash; Carlene Carter; Lisa Carter Dickerson; Rita Forrester; Benita Carter Jones; Dale Jett; Danny Carter Jones; David Carter Jones; Kevin Carter Jones; Connie Carter Keller; Joseph Cash; Tyler Forrester; Tucker Jett; Casey Dickerson Garrett; Tiffany Anastasia Lowe; AnnaBelle Cash; Grace June Cash; Jack Ezra Cash; Dewanna Wolfe Cross; Dania Wolfe Strong; Adriannna Cross; Lux Darling; Jacob Strong; Shyanna Strong; Flo Wolfe

Side A: 
Farther On
My Clinch Mountain Home
Gold Watch And Chain
Worried Man Blues
Winding Stream
I Never Will Marry
Amber Tresses

Side B: 
Diamonds In The Rough
Don’t Forget This Song
Foggy Mountain Top
Will The Circle Be Unbroken
Maybelle’s New Tune

—Robbie Gerson

Related Reviews
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01
Logo Pure Pleasure