Monday, August 20, 2007

Anchored in Love, a Tribute to June Carter Cash review

Anchored in Love: A Tribute to June Carter Cash
Various Artists
Dualtone Records
June 5th

June Carter Cash and her husband (you know…that guy) were without a doubt the first couple of country music. Faith Hill and Tim McGraw can suck my big toe. Johnny and June survived a tumultuous courtship to become one of the genre’s most beloved duos, not to mention the individual success they both had, along the way inspiring each other to write such songs as “I Walk the Line,” and “Ring of Fire.”

It is certainly fitting, then, that Anchored in Love: A Tribute to June Carter Cash is almost as much a tribute to the both of them as it is to her. Four of the chosen tracks were sung as duets, with two more referencing Johnny himself.

The music itself is more than decent, with the flaws largely owing to the choice of artists covering the songs. Take the opening “If I Were a Carpenter:” Willie Nelson makes sense. Close friend of Johnny’s, and fellow outlaw countryman. Sheryl Crow…not so much. She makes the song pleasant enough to listen to, but her vocals are too clean to stand up to June’s soulful grit. Likewise, Carlene Carter and Ronnie Dunn do a better than passable job with “Jackson,” but we can blame the producers for trying to update the sound too much.

Most of the album’s remainder is superb. “Far Side Banks of Jordan,” performed here by Patty Loveless and Kris Kristofferson, is perfect, retaining the song’s inherent qualities of sorrow, joy, and faith. Brad Paisely turns in a fantastic and refreshingly stripped-down take on “Keep On The Sunny Side,” and Elvis Costello is brilliant with his jangly, slightly ambient version of “Ring of Fire.”

No one can be June Carter Cash, and woe betide unto anyone who tries. Most of the artists on Anchored in Love seem to understand that, and the album is better off for it, serving as a fitting remembrance to the Carter/Cash legacy.

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