By James Calemine
Stronger counts as Carlene Carter’s first album of new material since 1995. Severe personal tragedies such as death of her longtime partner—Heartbreaker Howie Epstein, her mother June Carter, stepfather Johnny Cash and little sister Rosey, de-railed Carter’s life and career.
Her new husband Joe Breen serves as the musical catalyst of these songs which emerge as a collection of bittersweet celebratory songs of survival.
Carter’s career in music began at an early age and she lived the life of a rock and roll queen. Carter sold the first version of Stronger on the Net and at her shows, but she decided to re-record these songs. The 12 tracks on Stronger prove a diverse collection…
“The Bitter End” begins the album with an up-beat song regarding following one’s instinct. “Why Be Blue” fights off any negative forces zeroing in on one’s life. “To Change Your Heart” reminds one of bluegrass roots told in an old-time narrative colored by guitars, dobros and mandolins.
“Bring Love” straddles country and bluegrass styles cultivated in the Tennessee countryside. “I’m So Cool” proves a roadhouse rocker that will bring in the farmers and mechanics into town for a Friday night celebration. “Spider Lace” resembles a Stanley Brothers musical landscape, and Carter’s voice flashes brilliance of her bloodlines.
“On To You” illustrates Carter’s lyrical prowess with images highlighted by a mercurial musical landscape. “Judgement Day”, a piano ballad, conjures elements of sadness which surely reflect upon Carter’s brutal loss. “Break My Heart In Two” stands as a boot-stomping dance number that surely livens up the atmosphere.
“It Takes One to Know Me” represents Carter’s love for the Appalachian musical tincture, while “Light of Your Love” should appear on the new country music scene with a bang. “Stronger”—the title track—sums up Carter’s survival in spite of her indelible loss when she sings “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”. Stronger delivers a strong dose of redemptive soul…