Carlene Carter Carter Girl

Carlene Carter Carter Girl
"If I could change a thing in this world/ I'd go back to the days of Grandma and her girls/ Singing sweet and low…"

This new record by Carlene Carter — daughter of June, granddaughter of A. P. and Sara — will be of immediate interest to anyone with a taste for the history of roots music. If anyone knows this music inside and out, backwards and forwards, it'll be the progeny of the first family of American folk music. And here, carried on Don Was' creative production work, Carter offers her most compelling album to date, a late-career rejuvenation that feels like the first chapter in a new story.

Now in her 50s, Carter's voice has taken on just the right amount of sand; though her delivery remains bright and vibrant, she sounds every bit the mature tunesmith she's become. This is, emphatically, a good thing. Running through a selection of traditional songs (most of which were made popular by her grandparents back in the '20s and '30s) and new offerings reflecting on her family's legacy, Carter Girl drips with nostalgia and imagination. Hell, the closing number, "I Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow," even features Helen, June and Anita Carter — all long dead, of course — on vocals. Nostalgia and imagination, indeed.

Featuring terrific guest vocals from Willie Nelson ("Troublesome Waters"), Elizabeth Cook (on the swashbuckling "Blackie's Gunman"), Kris Kristofferson ("Blackjack David") and Vince Gill (on album standout "Lonesome Valley 2003," a touching update of the old chestnut), and giving ample room to crack session players Greg Liesz, Jim Keltner and Sam Bush, this crash course in roots music history is worth every bit of your time. (Rounder)