In case you don't know, John Carter Cash is the son of Johnny Cash and June Carter. He has more than his share of country and folk Grammys for his production work on his father's and mother's albums, and while you couldn't imagine a finer country music pedigree, you'd better look elsewhere if you're expecting this to be a traditional country album. On The Family Secret, pop music predominates with side trips into metal and dark cabaret balladry. The title track, "The Family Secret," has nothing to do with his dad's tribulations. It's a hard rocker about the son of a wolfman, delivered by a rip-snortin' two-guitar, bass, and drums rock band. "Uncle Sam Is Dead" is a slow metallic protest ballad that features Tony Narell on the big Hammond B-3 and screaming lead guitar supporting Carter Cash's growling vocal. A cover of Loudon Wainwright's "Swimming Song" sounds like a contemporary country track combining pop/rock, banjo, and an insouciant vocal. "No One Here Gets Out of Here Alive" takes its title from a paraphrase of a Jim Morrison lyric. It's not a rocker, but a country-pop meditation on mortality with Narell's B-3 providing the expected sanctified feel. Country done Carter Cash style shines through on "If God Made Anything Better Than a Woman," a sentimental honky tonk tune featuring soulful pedal steel, and "Unforgettable Dance," a soaring ode to true love that features a Carter Cash vocal marked by understated passion. The album closes with a hidden track, a cover of Blue Öyster Cult's "Godzilla" presented as a piano lounge ballad. It doesn't quite work, but it shows off Carter Cash's inclination to take risks. Carter Cash isn't the singer his father was, but his gruff vocals carry a force of personality that makes his singing compelling, and with his ability to turn in credible songs in a multitude of styles, he seems destined for a long, varied career.
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AllMusic Review by j. poet