November 03, 1980 12:00 PM

Carlene Carter

Carter’s third and best album to date is produced by her husband, Nick Lowe. It owes much of its leanness to Lowe’s old Rockpile partner, the British rockabilly guitar picker Dave Edmunds. Of course, Carter, a member of the renowned country-music family, possesses Nashville’s equivalent of designer genes for this sort of music. Indeed, the first side is near-perfect New Waveabilly. Cry is loose and tough, with crisp acoustic guitars grinding out chords. Madness is lively and has a pop-rock feel. Baby Ride Easy, a Carter-Edmunds duet, is a wry truck-stop delight. I’m So Cool is a churning rocker with mostly acoustic backup, old-timey vocal echoes and a ringing solo by the nasal-voiced Edmunds. There are some slow moments, including a quirky version of Ring of Fire (which Carlene’s mother, June Carter, wrote and her stepfather Johnny Cash popularized) using R&B-style rhythm and synthesizers. Then Too Bad about Sandy and Too Proud are both forgettable, overly mannered pop ballads. But in Foggy Mountain Top, a rousing, sublimely executed hillbilly tune written by A.P. Carter (Carlene’s great uncle), she sings, “If I had listened to what Momma said/I might not have been here today.” Musically, June Carter needn’t worry; her daughter’s right where she belongs.

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