Carlene Carter: Stronger (Yep Roc)

Carlene Carter should have been a huge star. The daughter of country greats June Carter and Carl Smith, she has more songwriting and vocal talent than most of today’s newbies would know what to do with.
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Carlene Carter should have been a huge star. The daughter of country greats June Carter and Carl Smith, she has more songwriting and vocal talent than most of today’s newbies would know what to do with. Let’s just say some bad choices and personal losses cheated her out of some of what should have been her best music-making years. Now, 13 years after her last album of new material, Carter’s come roaring back with a wonderful indie release. Her current sound bears some resemblance to the Carlene Carter of the 1980s, when she (and her then-producer/husband Nick Lowe) combined elements of new wave pop with country. “Bring Love” is a moving, elegant fusion of styles, while “Break My Little Heart in Two” belongs at the top of the country charts. With a few exceptions, these songs are realized by Carter and her producer/engineer John McFee, who plays almost every instrument on the album. And at the heart of these sometimes-acoustic, sometimes-electric arrangements is Carter’s powerful, sensitive vocal. The voice of experience sounds amazing.

Must Play: “Break My Little Heart in Two”

Produced, engineered and mixed by John McFee. Mastering: Adam Ayan/Gateway (Portland, ME).

—Barbara Schultz