Tag Archives: A.P. Carter

Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists: Carlene Carter

Carlene CarterIt’s easy to forget just how talented Carlene Carter is.  In the last eighteen years, she’s only given us two albums to remind us.  But with a career that stretches back to her 1978 eponymous debut album, all the way through her excellent new release, Carter Girl, she has been a consistently excellent entertainer and songwriter.

In addition to her latest release, her albums Musical Shapes (1980), I Fell in Love (1990), and Little Love Letters (1993) are all among the best country albums of their time.  Those three sets factor heavily into this list, but there are plenty of great moments on most of her other studio albums, too.  Her first four sets tend to fade in and out of print, but they’re worth snapping up when available.

It’s been more than five years since I’ve done a Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists post.  For the uninitiated, my rubric is simple: I just ranked my favorite twenty-five tracks and then counted them down with commentary.  No big stab at objective truth here.  This is just what I like the most from one of ‘em that I like the most.   Share your own favorites in the comments, and hopefully discover one or two new ones along the way.

Carlene Carter Little Love Letters

#25
Little Love Letter #1 and Little Love Letter #2
Little Love Letters (1993)
Written by Carlene Carter, Howie Epstein, and Benmont Tench

The first Carlene Carter album I ever bought was Little Love Letters.  I was instantly hooked by the clever framing of  “Side 1″ and “Side 2″ with these quick vignettes.  They’re funny, they’re heartfelt, and I could listen to a whole album full of them.

Carlene Carter Musical Shapes

#24
Too Bad About Sandy
Musical Shapes (1980)
Written by Carlene Carter

When I was younger, I just got a kick out of how dark and seedy this track seemed, with its celebration of the sweet low life and cold hard cash.  But now, I keep going back to the wisdom in the advice she gives her love-struck younger sister: “Honey, can’t be love if you’ve gotta ask twice.”

Carlene Carter Two Sides to Every Woman

#23
Swap-Meat Rag
Two Sides to Every Woman (1979)
Written by Carlene Carter

On the surface, it’s a bawdy number about free love.  Underneath the surface, it’s a wicked satire of the artifice that is American suburbia.  Plus she growls a lot, and it sounds cool.

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100 Greatest Men: #32. A.P. Carter

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

His legacy has often languished in the shadows of his more accomplished female relatives, but A.P. Carter’s contributions to the development of country music remain essential.

A.P. Carter was the oldest of eight children, growing up in the poverty of the Appalachian mountains.  He struggled with tremors throughout his life, but still managed to master the fiddle.   He sang in a gospel group with his family and began writing songs, usually heavily influenced adaptations of traditional mountain songs and classic story ballads from both the Americas and overseas.

His life changed when he met Sara Dougherty, who became both his performance partner and his wife.   Alongside Maybelle Carter, his sister-in-law, they became a popular trio.  The Carter Family soon auditioned for and landed a long-term contract with Victor Records.  Beginning in 1927, they released widely popular country records, maintaining their success throughout both the Great Depression and A.P. and Sara’s separation.   The importance of their records cannot be overstated, with “Can the Circle Be Unbroken”, “Wildwood Flower”, and “Keep on the Sunny Side” now widely hailed as the most significant formative records in country music history.

Still, it would be the women of the group, especially Maybelle, who would further cement the legacy of the Carters.  After A.P. divorced Sara in 1939, the Carter Family’s breakup was inevitable.    Sara retired from the group in1943, and while A.P. ran a country store, Maybelle hit the road with her daughters throughout the forties.   The Carter Family made a brief comeback in the fifties, with A.P. and Sara joining their grown children on stage, but they disbanded after four years and a small handful of recordings.

A.P. Carter died in 1960, but his legacy lives on.  While Mother Maybelle and her daughters are the most recognizable Carters, their success was made possible by the work that A.P. and Sara did with Maybelle in the first fifteen years of the Carter Family’s musical legacy.

Essential Singles:

  • “Single Girl, Married Girl,” 1927
  • “Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow,” 1927
  • “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone,”

    1928

  • “Keep on the Sunny Side,” 1928
  • “Wildwood Flower,” 1928
  • “Can the Circle Be Unbroken,” 1928
  • “Motherless Children,” 1929
  • “No Depression in Heaven,” 1936
  • “Coal Miner’s Blues,” 1938

Next: #31. Randy Travis

Previous: #33. Mel Tillis

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

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