Anita Carter

Ring of Fire

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It's been well documented that June Carter Cash and Merle Kilgore wrote the song "Ring of Fire," which is about her early relationship with Johnny Cash. What's less well known is that it was her youngest sister, Anita, not Johnny Cash, who cut it first, accompanied only by a pair of acoustic guitars. Ring of Fire is the German Bear Family label's presentation of Anita Carter's 1962-1964 Mercury recordings. While Carter is also a daughter of Mother Maybelle, country music, at least in the early '60s, was not her forte -- folk music was. There are 25 tracks here, all of them stunning, some of them unknown, but all of them fine. Some of the cuts here are historic debuts of songs performed by folk and country artist later on. The initial recording of "Satan's Child," written by sister Helen and Danny Dill, Kilgore's "Sour Grapes," her own "All My Trials," and the cut she wrote with June and Kilgore, "As the Sparrow Goes," are all here, as well as readings of A.P. and Maybelle tunes such as her mother's "Fair and Tender Ladies" and "In the Highways," A.P.'s "John Hardy, Bury Me Beneath the Willow," and more. There are unreleased gems here too: a recording of Harlan Howard's "A Few Short Years Ago" and Irving Gordon's "The Kentuckian Song." But more than the cuts -- produced in Nashville and New York by Jerry Kennedy, Shelby Singelton, and Milt Okun -- this recording reveals that Carter's voice is one of the purest and most expressive vehicles either country or folk ever produced. Carter's own reticence is what held her back from superstardom. The music here, most of it with two acoustic guitars, some with a double bass, is simple, even ghostly in the way it frames a voice so seemingly plaintive, yet with a range that is awe-inspiring, given how pristine her singing was, and how she could take even the corniest song ("Voice of the Bayou") and make it a believable and true statement of passion, purpose, or poisonous emotion. By the time the record ends with "Wildwood Flower," the listener has been transported out of time and space and into the heart of Carter's mysterious, darkly inviting, and spiritually resilient vocal. This is one of the best single-volume compilations Bear Family has ever done.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 1:59
2 2:57
3 2:59
4
2:22
5 2:51
6 2:54
7 3:38
8 3:17
9 4:15
10 2:20
11 2:53
12 2:32
13 2:22
14 1:59
15 2:53
16 3:00
17 3:15
18 2:21
19 2:08
20 2:30
21 2:16
22 3:30
23 2:53
24 2:14
25 2:19
26 2:29
blue highlight denotes track pick