Various Artists

Anchored in Love: A Tribute to June Carter Cash

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Because she rarely recorded under her own name, a tribute to the late June Carter Cash by default also stands as a tribute to her genealogy: several of the songs among the dozen here were recorded by June with her late husband, Johnny Cash, or by country music's legendary Carter Family, from which June sprang. In addition, the album was produced by John Carter Cash, the only child of Johnny and June, and there are tracks by Carlene Carter, June's daughter from her first marriage (to Carl Smith), and Rosanne Cash, Johnny Cash's daughter with his first wife. As producer, John Carter Cash largely plays it predictable. There are few surprises and no truly offbeat rearrangements or radical interpretations. Folks who enjoyed the singing of June Carter Cash will likely be quite satisfied with these loving, faithful covers. And they should be, because virtually all of the performances are flawless, honest, and inspired. Two duets lead things off: Sheryl Crow and duet king Willie Nelson give a spirited, if somewhat rote, reading to "If I Were a Carpenter," the Tim Hardin-penned classic, and Carlene Carter and Ronnie Dunn hoot it up on "Jackson," the Nancy Sinatra-Lee Hazlewood hit -- both songs were longtime staples of Johnny and June's shows together. A handful of top-shelf country artists, among them Loretta Lynn (a tender "Wildwood Flower"), Brad Paisley (a straightforward, beautifully sung "Keep on the Sunny Side"), and bluegrass hero Ralph Stanley ("Will the Circle Be Unbroken," what else?), pay their respects with kind treatments, and Emmylou Harris, who certainly learned a thing of two from June, sends it off in style with "Song to John," June's self-explanatory tribute of her own. It wouldn't be a tribute album if Elvis Costello didn't turn up, and though his "Ring of Fire" will never go down as the definitive version of that Johnny Cash signature, Costello brings his usual commitment -- and an autoharp, June's favorite instrument -- to his no-frills version. Two of the more left-field approaches come via Patty Loveless and Kris Kristofferson, who bring a touch of drollness to "Far Side Banks of Jordan," and Billy Joe Shaver, who's exactly the right guy to give a bit of bite to the Carter Family's "Kneeling Drunkard's Plea." You've got to think that both June and Johnny would have loved this homage, whose release coincides with the publication of John Carter Cash's same-titled biography of his mother.

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