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Keep On The Sunny Side: June Carter Cash-Her Life In Music
Artist: June Carter Cash
Label: Columbia/Legacy

June Carter Cash's second husband, Johnny Cash, had been anthologized nigh to the point of redundancy long before either of them passed on to their great reward. Keep On The Sunny Side: June Carter Cash-Her Life In Music confirms the significance of her own musical legacy.

From her pre-teen days of hokum with The Carter Family's original line-up to her diptypch of late-career folky solo albums (of the only three she recorded) in the years just preceding her death, outright gospel subtext recurred outright Christian sentiments throughout her work. This double-disc collection's title song shows up thrice--once sung by the original Family configuration; another by a later configuration of the singing clan, and, from the elderly matriarch Carter Cash had become by the time of her final solo long-player, _Wildwood Flower._ Another song her kin made famous (but didn't necessarily write), "Will The Circle Be Unbroken?" shows up as her collaboration with Earl Scruggs and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on the third of the latter's same named series of event albums celebrating country music's roots. As with "Sunny Side," it works in both sacred and secular contexts.

Just as her Man In Black went through numerous re-inventions, Carter Cash didn't lack for versatility. She made as much of early novelty ditties "Root, Hog or Die" and "No Swallerin' Place" as she cut incisively into the rueful talking blues/proto-rap "The Heel" and a version of "Ring of Fire" that predates the mariachi-spiked rendition Johnny sent up the charts.

Disappointingly, most of the same duets with Johnny that show up on the concurrently issued box set of his, _The Legend,_ reappear here. Though I was itching to hear "Long-Legged Guitar-Pickin' Man" in its digitized glory, "Jackson" is about as much of a hoot. Their turn on Bobby Darrin's "If I Were A Carpenter" navigates the same kind of relational nuance that Kris Kristofferson and Tom T. Hall were beginning to explore on Music Row. Far sillier, both of her trios with Homer & Jethro on their first album for RCA sound as funny as they must have over 50 years ago. She also cut at least one track with her first other half, Carl Smith.

Properly expanded reissues of Carter Cash's solo albums would be a collectors' boon. Nevertheless, this generous collection, filled with photos and text by country scholar Holly George-Warren and family friend Elvis Costello, commemorates the legacy of a godly, multi-talented woman without whom American music wouldn't nearly be the same.

Jamie Rake  September 29, 2005



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