Fantastic Overview of an Incredible melder of roots stylings
John B. Taylor | Alexander City, AL USA | 11/29/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First of all, I want to state that Johnny Cash is the holy grail of folk, country, and rockabilly music to me and this here gal Carlene is his stepdaughter. She is also the daugher of 50s country legend Carl Smith, June Carter Cash's daughter, and obviously a part of the Carter Family clan that helped define country music. I became aware of Carlene a little late; in the early 90s when 'I Fell in Love', 'Come on Back', 'Sweet Meant to Be', 'Love Like This', 'Unbreakable Heart', 'I Love You 'Cause I want To', and the incredible 'Every Little Thing', among others, came blasting out of radio boxes and video channels for what was a too brief spate. The sight of a beautiful lady kicking arse with an axe in her hand and great pipes flailing away on rockin' songs with great melodies and instrumentation was so refreshing to these ears. This stuff bares no resemblance to the bland faux country pop you still hear emanating out of Nashville. This music is from someone who rightfully should be considered a master of the female rockabilly form; mixing it with New Wave early in her career, and more traditional country and even bluegrass in the 90s. I have since become a Nick Lowe completist; he of New Wave fame, producing Elvis Costello, and a very satisfying re-career in country inflected crooning in the 90s. Well, Carlene was once Mrs. Lowe (that's her in the vid for 'Cruel to Be Kind'), from the late 70s to around 90', I do believe. On her first 3 records, 'Carlene Carter', 'Two Sides II Every Woman', and the magnificent 'Musical Shapes', she was backed by The Rumour, the Doobie Brothers, and Rockpile (Dave Edmunds and Lowe) respectively. 'Never Together But Close Sometimes' is included from the first lp, and the opening chords from the Rumour blow you out of your seat. Then Carlene's lusty vocals will take you into outer space. 'It's No Wonder' is a beautiful ballad that foreshadows her greatness as a crooner, and represents the 2nd album well. The 'Musical Shapes' rockers 'Cry' and 'I'm So Cool' highlight how great Rockpile was. It's the duet inlcuded here from Musical Shapes, 'Baby Ride Easy', with Dave Edmunds matching high notes with Carter, that will simply blow your mind!I have since acquired all 8 of Carlene's solo albums, and this collection grabs most of the highlights of 6 of them. Only 1981s 'Blue Nun', recorded with Paul Carrack, and 1983s 'C'est C Bon' are not represented. Luckily, those are her weakest albums as she departed from her roots into r & b inflected pop. They contain a few worthy tracks, but nothing truly essential.This collection does a good job of skimming gems from her 3 fantastic albums from the 90s, which featured the backing of Benmont Tench and Albert Lee among many others. Along with the hits listed in paragraph 2 above, you get the great bluegrass stomp and paen to Mother Mabel of 'Me and The Wildwood Rose', the Dylan penned tune 'Trust Yourself' (Dylan and Dwight Yoakam guest appear), stunning balladry of 'Change', and rockin' album track 'He Will Be Mine'. Last but not least, you get one of Carlene's first compositions from 1976, 'Easy From Now On'. Emmylou Harris would make the tune a big hit in the later 70s and even lifted it's phrase 'quarter moon in a ten cent town' as the title of one of her classic albums.All in all, this is a stupendous collection. Much like Nick Lowe's 'The Basher' compilation, it made me seek out everything Carlene has recorded. In essence, that's what a great compilation should do; give you a good introduction to an artist and interest you in further exploration. I will guarantee you, you'll at least seek out 'Musical Shapes' and her 3 1990s albums('I Fell in Love', 'Little Love Letters', & 'Little Acts of Treason') after hearing this disc.For many folks, Emmylou Harris or Linda Ronstadt is the essence of 'cool', 'hip' femme fatale country and rockin' roots music. For me, that person is Carlene. If you are in to Elvis Costello (she covered 'Radio Sweetheart'), Tom Petty, Ronstadt, Graham Parker and the Rumour, Dwight Yoakam, Dave Edmunds, Paul Carrack, or the ole Basher Nick Lowe, you cannot go wrong here! I hope Carlene knows that us fans are praying that she and Howie Epstein (her producer and main squeeze) overcome their recent problems and start creating great music again!Disclaimer: The above track listing includes 'Do It In A Heartbeat' at #21. This track was a hit off her 2nd album, and was recorded with the Doobie Brothers. My copy of this cd does not include this track, and there does appear to be an asterisk beside it. Don't be surprised if that tune is not on the cd if you get it. Enjoy the music!"
A Well Chosen Anthology
Steve Vrana | Aurora, NE | 01/21/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Carlene Carter came into her own with the release of the marvelous I Fell In Love in 1990. In addition to the title track--which was a country hit--Carter scceeded in melding rock & roll and traditional country. Not exactly a novel idea at the time, but armed with a batch of self-penned tunes and some of the best country and rock musicians around (Albert Lee, Jay Dee Maness, Jim Keltner, James Burton, David Lindley, etc.), Carter and producer Howie Epstein came up with the best album of her career. This and her two excellent follow-up albums (1993's Little Love Letters and 1995's Little Acts of Treason) make up half of this generous 20-track career anthology. And they should. Although Carter has been recording since the late Seventies, it's her later work that holds up the best. The lone exception is 1980's Musical Shapes, which was produced by then husband Nick Lowe with Rockpile providing instrumental backing. Tracks from this album include "Cry," "I'm So Cool" and "Baby Ride Easy," the latter a wonderful duet with Dave Edmunds.If you like honest country music with a rock & roll heart, this CD makes an excellent introduction to an artist who in a just world would be as big as Shania Twain. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED"
She Put the C--- back in Country
Steve Vrana | 10/31/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Why Carlene hasn't caught on in the world of country music, I'll never know. This stuff is classic. Four CD's worth of great music all wrapped up in one."
A Must For Fans
Blubber Mouth | Boston | 05/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Grab this collection while you can, it looks like we may not be hearing anything new from Miss Carter for quite some time. Drugs took her longtime boyfriend Howie Epstein last year,after they'd reportedly been caught in a stolen vehicle. Then she lost her sister Rosie (drug paraphernalia found in the bus that Rosie was living in) and of course Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash all in the same year. News in early 2004 had Carlene back in jail for theft and drugs, and reports are that she looks like a mere shadow of her former self. This may be the last chance to sample some great work from one of country's discarded gems."
Enigmatic genius delivers great rocking country
Peter Durward Harris | Leicester England | 03/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"At her best, Carlene was a match for all her rivals. The evidence for this is the album I fell in love, a hard rocking country album from 1990, the like of which I don't ever expect to be matched. It is one of my all-time favorites in any genre of music. The follow-up to that album was released in 1993. Little love letters was another excellent album, but was predominately filled with ballads, demonstrating that Carlene didn't have to rock hard to deliver great music. This compilation shows just how good those two albums are. I fell in love is represented here by the title track, Come on back, Me and the wildwood rose (one of my all-time favorite songs, it is about her childhood times with mother, June Carter Cash, and her Grandma, Mother Maybelle Carter) and The sweetest thing.Little love letters is represented by Sweet meant to be, Every little thing, Unbreakable heart and I love you `cause I want to.The next album, Little acts of treason from 1995, is represented by He will be mine, Hurricane and Change. In its way, that was an excellent album, but suffered by comparison with its two predecessors. As far as I know, Carlene has not recorded an album since then.Of the older tracks, Baby ride easy, a duet with Welsh rocker Dave Edmunds from 1980, is another brilliant song. The other oldies are also enjoyable, if not quite up to the quality of the best tracks.As a career-spanning compilation, this is excellent, but the original albums I fell in love and Little love letters are even better."