Produced by Don Was and Mixed by Bob Clearmountain
Country music legend Carlene Carter has recorded her forthcoming album, “Carter Girl,” at Ocean Way in Hollywood, with additional sessions in Nashville. The album is an homage to her Carter Family legacy for which she is now the standard bearer after the passing of her grandmother Maybelle Carter and mother June Carter Cash. The album was produced by Don Was and mixed by Bob Clearmountain, for release on Rounder Records, Carter’s first for the label.
As the daughter of country music legends June Carter Cash and Carl Smith, and granddaughter of “Mother” Maybelle Carter of the original historic Carter Family, Carter says it has been her lifelong goal to make this record. “The songs on the album cover three generations of Carter Family music,” she explains. “The original Carter Family (A.P., Sara, and Maybelle); momma’s ‘Tall Lover Man’ and Helen’s ‘Poor Old Heartsick Me’; then two of mine: ‘Me and the Wildwood Rose’ and a new song about momma and John’s passing called ‘Lonesome Valley 2003.”
Carter shares writing credit on “Lonesome” with her great uncle A.P. Carter (recently in the Billboard Top 10 as cowriter of the pop phenomenon “Cups”), and the track features vocals by Vince Gill. Other guest artists on the album are Willie Nelson on “Troublesome Waters,” Kris Kristofferson on “Blackjack David,” and “Elizabeth Cook steps in as an honorary Carter Girl,” Carlene adds, “singing harmonies on six of the twelve songs.” Family is represented by cousin Lorrie Carter Bennett (daughter of Anita Carter), and Carlene’s husband Joe Breen, each heard on two songs.
The album was produced by Don Was and mixed by Bob Clearmountain, both on Carlene’s wish list for the project, and she says “Carter Girl” has “lots of fabulous musicians: Don on bass, Jim Keltner on drums, Rami Jaffee (from The Wallflowers and Foo Fighters) on keyboards. Greg Leisz plays steel guitar, acoustic, and electric too. Sam Bush is playing mandolin on three songs. Blake Mills plays most of the stringed instruments, electric guitars, and tiple, which is a kind of mandolin. I play piano, and acoustic guitars in the style of my grandma, but it’s different from the 1920s. I’m really glad I was able to pull together all of these perfect people.”
“Cowboy Jack Clement played acoustic guitar on ‘Ain’t Gonna Work Tomorrow,'” Carlene continues, “and we used an old track for that to have Helen, Anita, momma, and me, along with Big John, singing background on the chorus. We built a new track around our vocals from the Wildwood Flower album we did back in 1986. Kind of a cool thing to have the technology to bring it as a part of this project.”
Carter reflects on her producer for the album, Don Was, “I knew that he would bring the right people to play on it,” says Carlene. “I really believe in the power of the universe, and because this particular record had such ‘heart value’ in it for me in carrying on the Carter Family legacy, I needed it to be the best it could be. Don was the right man for the job.”
“Carter Girl” will be released on April 8 to be followed by performance dates in Nashville (Station Inn on release date) and Los Angeles (Grammy Museum, April 15; Amoeba Records, April 16; Hotel Cafe, April 17).