Randy Krbechek's Metronews
August 4, 1993
Carter, Little Love Letters (Giant 1993) -- On Little Love
Letters, Ms. Carter (the daughter of June Carter Cash and
stepdaughter of Johnny Cash) makes her bid for country
superstardom. With her perky personality and free spirit, Carlene may
find the heights for which she aims.
Carlene's seen her share of hard times (both musically and personally).
In the early to mid-80s, Carlene attempted to fuse pop, country and rock-a-billy,
with mixed results (see her uneven 1980 release, Musical Shapes).
In addition, Carlene got caught up in a fast crowd, and became friendly
with various addictive substances.
Having returned from the brink, Carlene is now imbued with a new sense
of self, and a new desire to succeed. Little Love Letters is a
friendly, accessible album by a talented and mellowed artist.
Produced by Howie Epstein (of Tom Petty's
band, the Heartbreakers), featured cuts on Little Love Letters include
the gently acoustic "Unbreakable Heart", "I Love You Cause I Want To"
(with its scat-call chorus aimed at live performances), and "Heart is
Right", a sweet love song.
Take away the banjos, mandolins, and pedal steel (none of which appear
in overabundance), and the sound on Little Love Letters is pure
pop. Carlene's ready for the bigtime, and she wants you to join her. Don't
play coy with Ms. Carter -- Little Love Letters is a very alluring
Lynne, Temptation (Morgan Creek 1993) -- Temptation marks
the Morgan Creek debut for Tennessee-based chanteuse Shelby
Lynne, following three successful country albums on Epic.
On Temptation, Ms. Lynne follows the trail blazed by Linda Ronstadt,
Carly Simon, and other contemporary vocalists by branching into
an over-the-top big band sound. However, Temptation also casts
a longing eye towards k.d. lang's stunning 1992 release,
Ingenue, and seeks to capture an intimate nightclub atmosphere
on several numbers.
The album opens with the title track, a Texas-swing number, quickly shifts
gear into the sultry lounge sound of "Tell Me I'm Crazy", and finally
winds up with the playful "Come a Little Closer."
Shelby blends her southern background, strong voice, and 18-piece band
to produce an album that shows that the country sound will not be pigeonholed
into a simple (or single) category -- twangy guitars alone do not make
a country album. Temptation may lack the immediate poignancy of
Ingenue, but the effort is melodious and respectful of her musical
heirs, both big-band and country.
Cash, The Wheel (Columbia 1993) -- Speaking of Johnny
Cash, how about his very grown-up daughter, Rosanne Cash? Rosanne
is one of the strongest songwriters in country music today, and brings
her pain and strength with her to the recording studio.
Rosanne was married to country singer Rodney Crowell
for over ten years, and their partnership proved fruitful, both in the
studio (including numerous excellent releases by each) and in the home
(while becoming a leading country star, Rosanne had two daughters, Caitlin
Proving that nothing is more permanent than change, the couple split in
the early '90s. The rupture of their marriage clearly devastated Rosanne.
Bereft of the influence of Rodney, she released the stark, solo-produced
Interiors as the first step on her recovery. The Wheel (produced by
Jon Leventhal, who has also worked with Shawn Colvin)
marks the second step.
Rosanne is a thinking person's artist, and The Wheel is true to
her generous talents. The album can hardly be called country -- it features
Rosanne's evocative voice against a clean guitar/pop background. While
I hear traces of bitterness and anger in her songs, my wife hears elements
of faith and renewal. This is the mark of good poetry -- each listener
hears something different.
I can't fault Gail's analysis. The hope is there. On the title track,
Rosanne sings "And the wheel goes round and round And the flame in our
souls, It will never burn out," while on "From the Ashes" she sings "I
feel inspiration when all may be lost, I claim resurrection no matter
what the cost".
Yet songs like "The Truth About You", with its line "I know the truth
about you, babe, I know the stories you tell" and "Change Partners", with
its line "In the middle of my life, When my fate was sealed and tied,
The heavens rained down fire, The earth and moon conspired," reveal that
Rosanne has not fully surmounted the pain.
In explaining The Wheel, Rosanne says that "others might recognize
the feminine imagery and the mystical connections and the ties to the
subconscious. It's all basically about that unfolding, that constant evolution
of reworking and reforming that we all go through. It's all very elemental."
The Wheel is a deeply personal, honest statement by an artist
who is seeking to rediscover her place. Rosanne doesn't just want to sell
albums, and she doesn't just want to be a diva headlining sold-out arenas.
She wants to grow and help you grow with her. This is music that quickly
transcends its country constraints -- these are songs of pain,understanding,
and growth. Rosanne, we hear you. We're with you.
-- Randy Krbechek
(c) Randy Krbechek
David Anand Prasad and Idea Co.