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Carlene Carter Carlene Carter
Album: C'est C Bon
Label: Float World
Tracks: 12

Pick up a CD by any member of the famous Carter family from West Virginia (latterly Tennessee) and you know what you get, Wholesome Country Music mostly with their religion worn on their sleeves. Right? - Wrong!

This album by Carlene Carter, daughter of June Carter, entitled "C'est C Bon" originally issued in 1983 deviates completely from that mould. The first song "Meant It For A Minute" is an original which allows traces C&W to appear briefly in her voice, but the whole is more at home in an eighties disco. It drives along in an infectious rhythmic style and although not a fan of the genre, I couldn't help warming to the performance.

"Heart To Heart" was written by English songwriter Simon Climie. Carlene gives the song a melodic bent. The vocal guitar and synthesizer pads allowing Carlene's mastery of the "cheating ballad" to shine through, knowing as she does, how to wring the best out of a good lyric. This song was released as a single by Epic Records in 1983, but sadly it didn't chart as it is a good performance, worthy of several plays.

"Third Time Charm" ventures in to the area of pop but at no time does the arrangement cramp Carlene's style or distinctive voice, which lifts the song above the norm. This whole album was recorded at a time when the Carter/Lowe marriage was struggling, but the sheer fun and laughter enjoyed by the crew at the Rockfield studios is reflected in the quality of the music. Apparently Carlene adopted the role of mother hen, cooking and making tea and coffee for all. The atmosphere allowed Roger Bechirian the producer, to push the star to find the extra bit to make the album special. It was certainly worth the effort/

"Heart's In Traction" is as near to a dance track as Carter ever made. Her brassy lyric is supplemented by the raspy trombone of Annie Whitehead and the slap bass of James Eller. Like all such songs it has a strong hook upon which the listener latches instantly.

"I'm The Kinda Sugar Daddy Likes" is a message that might have been given as a warning to an innocent Sunday School girl by a more worldly wise elder sister. Containing the lyric; "I got the kinda stuff to sink his teeth into" She knows what she is getting into and is ready to pay the price in her behaviour to reap the rewards available. I found it a sad reflection on the life some women lead, having to lose their dignity and demean themselves for material gain. This girl knows what she is doing and is prepared for that. That said, the track is carried through at tempo that perhaps reflects the up beat attitude of the girl.

"Breathless" is an Otis Blackwell song which was a hit for rock 'n roller Jerry Lee Lewis in 1958. This version twenty five years later is very different, gentler treatment. Indeed I wouldn't have recognised it as the same song had I not compared it with the JLL track. Neither is it a song that might have found it onto the stage at the Grand Ole Opry, It is a measure of Carlene Carter's talent that she carries it off so successfully. It was considered for inclusion in the Richard Gere movie of the same name, but was not used. This is a pity because the sultry performance gives the song a new edge.

"Love Like Glove" Breezes in with the confidence of a track with pop hit potential. It was a moderate hit for Carlene's one-time husband on the self titled album "Nick Lowe and His Cowboy Outfit." but failed to trouble the BillBoard 100. It is a good poppy record which teases out the romantic disappointment inherent in the lyric.

Cool Reaction. This particular track indicates just how different this album set out to be from her normal style. It may be me but I felt the delivery slightly ponderous and over enunciated. This is a departure for me as I sometimes despair of not being able to hear the words of a song. This is not a complaint that can be railed against this album, notable for it's clarity of diction, perhaps on this track it is a little too deliberate.

Paul Carrack (of Mike and the Mechanics) wrote "Don't Give My Heart a Break" with Nick Lowe and Carlene Carter. A slow ballad with Carlene's voice in a synthesizer heavy arrangement. It was perhaps this track most of all that alienated her core of C&W fans, but didn't open her up to a new audience. That said, Carlene's voice is not subsumed by the electronics and had she not been so entrenched in the public's mind as a product of Nashville, it might have had more success. The C&W audience is very conservative, (or perhaps was in 1983) and this departure from their norm was perhaps just a little too much. I remember seeing at the time, a truck with a windscreen banner pronouncing "If it ain't Country, it ain't Music!"

"That Boy" is probably the least noteworthy of all the tracks on the album. It is lacking sparkle and is a more of a "stocking filler" on an otherwise interesting sequence of songs by an artist trying to break away from her usual style of music.

"One Way Ticket" is in contrast lively and adopts a cracking pace from the get go. It is enlivened by a vigorous but precise trio of horns played by musicians who are featured elsewhere on this album, but never to better effect than here. The arrangement by Tony Visconti allows full rein to elicit a fine performance from the principle singer.

"Patient Love" in 3/4 time brings an image of a couple smooching around their living room late at night. It is a romantic tale of a woman happy in her choice of man and rejoicing in the fact that they are together. It is without doubt my favourite track on this experimental album by an established artist that is so different to her musical roots.

Quite by chance the other night, I was at a club listening to a traditional jazz band with another enthusiast and it turned out that he had this album on original vinyl from 1983. The fact that he remembered it and liked it must be a recommendation in itself. It is a pity that it wasn't better received at the time, because there is some good stuff on this CD. The notes attached to it are much more comprehensive than would have been possible with the original issue and give insights into the recording process and background to the thinking at the time. I'm glad to have it now in my collection.

Tony Collins