Rare spin of Carter’s early stage work
This is a truly fascinating look at June Carter’s early-60s stage act, including both familiar songs and comedy routines that many listeners have probably never heard. In addition A.P. Carter songbook standards, “Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow” and “Wildwood Flower,” Carter shows off her original corn-pone humor and quick wit. She shows tremendous command of the comedy stage, lampooning the lyrics of Marty Robbins’ “Big Iron,” reciting a humorous poem about Elvis, and tossing off frenetic asides and barbs. But much like Buck Owens, when she swings from comedy into song, she’s riveting, as are the top-notch pickers with whom she’s surrounded. Supported by a full band, with electric guitars and pedal steel, these recordings are fuller than the parallel Hayride volume recently issued on Johnny Cash. A pair of tracks from 1961, highlighting a “Stars of the Opry” show at the Hayride, features Carter singing and joking with the Wilburn Brothers. But when they swing into A.P. Carter’s “Worried Man Blues,” the Kingston Trio’s then-recent hit simply disappears in their wake. A 1962 appearance yields Carter’s rapping version of “The Heel,” and a 1965 visit is highlighted by her duet with Johnny Cash on “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” and her backup singing on Cash’s Sun-era “Ballad of a Teenage Queen.” ¶ Sound quality isn’t state-of-the-art, but it’s clear, and Carter and the band are nicely isolated – no doubt reproduced from transcription records of the original KWKH broadcasts. The tracks are framed by Carter’s stage patter and comedy, along with applause and cheering. It gives you a good sense of how much the audience loved Carter’s combination of song and shtick. This is a rare glimpse of Carter standing tall on her own, unsupported by either the Carter Family or Johnny Cash. These recordings are a great find on both a beloved artist and the legendary show for which she performed.
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