Carlene Carter

I Fell in Love

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Carlene Carter spent much of her recording career waging a good-natured war between her rock & roll instincts and her country breeding before she signed with Reprise Records in 1989. With I Fell in Love, her first album for Reprise, Carter's music suggested she was finally willing to play ball with Nashville...but only just. I Fell in Love was a more polished set than Carter had recorded up to that time, and sounded like her version of a mainstream country record. But beneath the smooth veneer, Carter's spunky attitude still shines through, and here she claims a thoroughly enjoyable middle ground between Music City traditionalism and roughhouse honky tonk rock. With Tom Petty bassist Howie Epstein in as producer, I Fell in Love boasts a savvy studio sound and a legion of top-shelf pickers (including Albert Lee and James Burton on guitars and Benmont Tench on keyboards), but Carter lights a fire under nearly every tune on this set, and even the low-key love songs generate some sparks. And with June Carter Cash and Levon Helm joining her on backing vocals, the country accents ring out with an honesty and purity that cuts through the radio-ready mix. I Fell in Love may have been an effort to play nice on Carter's part, but it doesn't sound like a compromise so much as proof she was enough of a talent to have her cake and eat it too. And in this case, the cake is pretty tasty stuff.

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