June Carter Cash

Wildwood Flower

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The tracks that comprise Wildwood Flower became June Carter Cash's final recording sessions, and were held from October 2002 to March 2003. Largely a family affair, Wildwood Flower is easily Carter Cash's least polished recording and perhaps her best. Husband Johnny sings in either duet or as backup on almost all the tracks; also singing are daughter Carlene, granddaughter Tiffany Anastasia Lowe, and cousins Joe and Janette Carter (children of Sara and A.P. Carter). Johnny and June's son John Carter Cash produced the album and former son-in-law Marty Stuart makes an appearance or two as well. Creating most of the instrumental merrymaking are Norman and Nancy Blake. And it is fitting that this collection of family and friends created June Carter Cash's recorded epitaph. These songs are intimate, frighteningly so. Her voice, as well as Johnny Cash's, are mere shadows of what once were golden throats, and the songs were by and large written by A.P. Carter, with one by June and a cover of a Leon Russell tune. The ghosts of the original Carter Family hover about uneasily in the mix here, offering shards of old harmonies and broken notes in the title track, "Anchored in Love," "Keep on the Sunny Side," "Road to Kaintuck," "Kneeling Drunkard's Plea," and especially "Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone," where the truth strikes a little too close to home. There are a few spoken word intros here (and some historically recorded ones) that are both poignant and humorous -- check out June's observations of actor Lee Marvin on her intro to her song "Big Yellow Peaches." As the family gathers round one last time, the entire history of the country music tradition comes through and pours down around the listener, cracking and breaking and yet more musical than ever. This is the music of the folk as A.P. wrote it. And as such, it is both a credible historical document and, more importantly, the last will and testament of a legend who went back to her beginnings as a way of understanding the continuity of family and song in the present. Wildwood Flower is truly amazing, truly flawed, and heartbreakingly beautiful.

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