First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2007, Volume 14, #10
Written by John Metzger
Wed October 3, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
With her 2005 endeavor The Story of My Life, Deana Carter seized control of her career. Although she didnít completely redefine herself as an artist, she did make the case quite clearly that she has a lot more to say than the title of her debut Did I Shave My Legs for This? otherwise would suggest. Despite its flaws, The Story of My Life was more personal and revealing than anything she had concocted previously. At first glance, her fifth studio effort The Chain seems designed simply to bide time until her muse strikes again. Filled with cover songs that run the gamut from Roy Orbisonís Crying to Waylon Jenningsí Good Hearted Woman to Neil Youngís Old Man, the outing finds Carter paving a rather difficult path as she tackles material that inseparably is bound to other artists.
None of the cuts featured on The Chain is, perhaps, a more daunting undertaking than Roy Orbisonís Crying. Not surprisingly, Carterís rendition, like the countless others that have come before it, falls far short of the mark. Carterís arrangement is polished and smooth, so much so that she seriously diminishes the songís dramatic tension. Instead of a heartbroken, tormented wail, she turns it into a pristine and pretty blast of overwrought melancholia. Using the tune to open The Chain was an equally unwise move, but fortunately, the collection improves as it progresses.
The key to understanding The Chain comes from knowing Carterís frame of reference. Her father, who appears throughout the album, is none other than Fred Carter, Jr., a renowned session guitarist who performed on the original rendition of Orbisonís Crying as well as on Simon & Garfunkelís The Boxer and Bob Dylanís Lay Lady Lay. In other words, the songs that Deana Carter chose to cover are those with which she has lived for her entire life. The Chain is, then, a tribute of sorts to her dad as well as to the musicians with whom he frequently collaborated.
Still, the fact remains that, in making The Chain, Carter couldnít have picked a more difficult slate of songs to tackle, and although she enlisted the help of Shooter Jennings, Jessi Colter, and George Jones, to name a few of her guests, the set sometimes struggles to maintain its momentum. Her duet with Kris Kristofferson on Help Me Make It through the Night, for example, is less desperate than it ought to be, and the way in which she swaps lyrics with Paul Simonís son Harper on The Boxer feels overly contrived. On the other hand, Love Is Like a Butterfly, on which she is paired with Dolly Parton, flutters along in an ebulliently perky fashion, much as one might expect. Elsewhere, she and John Anderson inject a sense of steamy playfulness into Swinginí, and by slowing down Willie Nelsonís On the Road Again considerably, she shifts its perspective from joyous freedom to claustrophobic weariness. Over the course of the set, Carter dutifully highlights the music that helped to shape her career, and while The Chain undeniably would have benefitted from a grittier outlook, it nonetheless helps to bring the influential moments of her life into perspective.
Of Further Interest...
The Chain is available from Barnes & Noble.
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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