Yep Roc, 2008
REVIEW BY: David Bowling
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/28/2008
It has been almost twelve years since Carlene Carter released an album. The former bad girl of country music has endured a lot of tragedy during the past decade. Her mother, June Carter Cash, and stepfather, Johnny Cash, both passed away, followed by the death of her long-term partner Howie Epstein. Finally, her younger sister, Rosey, passed away in October of 2003. All this tragedy led to a relapse of her sobriety.
In some ways, Carter missed the commercial brass ring in the early 1980’s. Her two country-rock albums Two Sides To Every Woman and Musical Shape were released a decade too early; they would have fit in nicely with the modern
Stronger finds a mature Carlene Carter who, for the most part, has returned to her country roots. Carter’s voice is still sound and her ability to interpret a song is alive and well.
It is the ballads that form the emotional center of this album: “Spider Lake,” which features a high-end steel guitar as a counterpoint to Carter’s vocals, is a song that puts the listener and hopefully Carter herself at ease; “Judgement Day” is a poignant ballad of love lost; the title cut is really a eulogy for Rosey and the beginning of the resurrection process for Carlene.
“The Bitter End” is a traditional up-tempo country tune with steel guitar that provides a good counterpoint to the serious ballads, while “Why Be Blue” features one of the better vocals on Stronger, and “To Change Your Heart” features an autoharp sound which would have made her grandmother Maybelle proud.
Carlene Carter does return to her ‘80s sound for two songs: “Bring Love” is a joyful song of perseverance in the face of adversity with a smooth country-rock beat; the other, “I’m So Cool,” was originally released in 1980 and here she gives it a rousing, rocking spin.
Stronger may not explore new musical territory but it is an excellent and mature effort from a talented individual. Hopefully, it will be nowhere near twelve years before Carlene Carter records the next chapter of her life.