Anchored in Love:
A Tribute to June Carter Cash
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2007, Volume 14, #6
Written by John Metzger
Mon June 4, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
Ordinarily, it would be quite a challenge to craft a sub-par tribute to the works of June Carter Cash. Under the tutelage of her son, such an outcome becomes completely unimaginable. Previously, John Carter Cash had lent a guiding hand to The Unbroken Circle: The Musical Heritage of the Carter Family, and in drawing together an array of his close friends and relatives, he applies a similar approach to Anchored in Love: A Tribute to June Carter Cash. Lurking quietly in the background behind a number of bigger-named acts, musicians like Larry Perkins, Randy Scruggs, Norman and Nancy Blake, Marty Stuart, and Ronnie McCoury work tirelessly to whip the effort into shape. The end result is a lovingly intimate ode to a woman who not only connected but also transcended generations.
Each song that is featured on Anchored in Love knowingly draws from the performances that June and Johnny Cash have given over the years, and taken in full, the outing dutifully conjures their spirits. Grey DeLisle makes what is, perhaps, the biggest departure from June Carter Cash’s work by placing Big Yellow Peaches within a haunted, atmospheric arrangement. Regardless, DeLisle never loses sight of her subject, and the way in which she conveys the conflicted emotions of the tune’s protagonist is a dead ringer for how delightfully well Cash was able to explore the nuances within the words that she penned and sang. Elvis Costello also follows a different path on Ring of Fire by turning its familiar South-of-the-Border flair into a Buddy Holly backbeat, while an improbable pairing between Billy Bob Thornton and the Peasall Sisters works remarkably well on Road to Kaintuck because it so perfectly mirrors the juxtaposition of Johnny Cash’s ruggedness with the Carter Family’s charmingly innocent harmonies.
Yet, the material on Anchored in Love also provides the assembled performers with an opportunity to say goodbye as well as to make a final statement about the lives that June and Johnny lived. Wings of Angels, as performed by Rosanne Cash, becomes a lovely eulogy, and its initial weariness slowly is washed away by its gospel-tinged mourning. Elsewhere, Patty Loveless and Kris Kristofferson use the serene spirituality of Far Side Banks of Jordan to explore the everlasting love that the couple had for one another, while on Tim Hardin’s If I Were a Carpenter, Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow tap into the pair’s playful demeanor. There’s no doubt that Anchored in Love largely plays it safe by employing musical arrangements that sound as if they had been plucked directly from June Carter Cash’s Grammy-winning set Press On and its equally stellar follow-up Wildwood Flower. Nevertheless, it’s tremendously hard to quibble when the results are as strikingly luminous as this. ˝
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box