various artists,
The Unbroken Circle:
The Musical Heritage
of the Carter Family

(Dualtone, 2004)

Between August 1st, 1927 and October 14th, 1941, the Carter Family made nearly three hundred recordings. It is an immense body of work with great purpose. The legacy of this music is very much alive today. - John Carter Cash, liner notes

In thinking about the broad influence the Carter Family recordings made, it would probably be easier to list who wasn't influenced. While the Carter Family is rooted in bluegrass and folk music, musicians such as Jerry Garcia, Keith Richards and Earl Scruggs have claimed the Carters as an influence.

The Unbroken Circle: The Musical Heritage of the Carter Family is a veritable who's who of performers. This tribute album includes George Jones, Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris with the Peasall Sisters, Marty Stuart & his Fabulous Superlatives, Norman & Nancy Blake with Tim O'Brien, John Prine, Willie Nelson, Shawn Colvin with Earl & Randy Scruggs, the Whites with Ricky Skaggs, the Del McCoury Band and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Kris Kristofferson. Of course, there are also some off-shoot Carter family members, such as Roseanne Cash as well as the belated June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash, who recorded these songs prior to passing away in 2003.

Despite all these great artists, it's still hard to top the Carters on their own music. Check out "Little Moses" with Janette and Joe Carter. There's no doubt the ability to play these songs is in their blood. Actually, they continue the family tradition by playing these traditional songs at the Carter fold at the foot of the Clinch Mountains every Saturday night.

This is a very nice tribute album honoring a family whose effects on the musical world continue to be heard. The liner notes, written by John Carter Cash, provide some history of the Carter family, starting with Mother Maybelle Carter. Besides the liner notes, there's also a rich collection of songs with contemporary voices -- or better yet, think of it as history lessons with contemporary voices. This tribute proves there's still a place (and always will be) for the music of the Carter Family.

- Rambles
written by C. Nathan Coyle
published 26 March 2005

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