Deana Carter is a Nashville gal with Music City roots, although she is not a member of the fabled Carter Family... Rather, she's the daughter of session guitarist Fred Carter Jr., a prolific picker who played on a bazillion recordings by a jillion great stars. She started out with one foot in the modern pop world, and eventually went for more of an "adult contemporary" pop sound, though country fans will want her on their radar as well. Here's a quick look at her work...
Deana Carter "The Deana Carter Collection" (Capitol Nashville, 2002)
Deana Carter "Did I Shave My Legs For This?" (Capitol, 1996)
(Produced by Jimmy Bowen, Chris Farren & John Guess)
The debut album of singer-songwriter Deana Carter, daughter of legendary Nashville session guitarist Fred Carter... This is a pretty strong effort, at its best, a spunky summation of the upbeat rock orientation of the mid-1990s "young country" scene. She dips into the same corny turf as other Nashvillers on the slow stuff, but she's still a cut above, in my opinion, and definitely worth checking out. Anyway, she must have done something right: this album sold over five million copies. and includes three chart-topping hits -- "Strawberry Wine," "How Do I Get There" and "We Danced Anyway" (co-written with Matraca Berg)
Deana Carter "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" (Capitol, 1998)
(Produced by Deana Carter, Chris Farren & Keith Thomas)
In the it's-all-up-for-grabs stylistic shift of pre-Millennial Nashville, it was hard to tell if Deana Carter's brash, depth-ridden braininess would work or not... She certainly provided a strong voice to field-test introspective songs by the likes of up-and-coming songwriters such as Matraca Berg and Leslie Satcher, but in the long run her track record seems mixed. Some tunes, like the tinkly ballad, "People Miss Planes," seem like standard enough fare, although others, like her loopy, Little Feat-inspired cover of Norma Tanenga's novelty oldie, "Brand New Key," or the soft soul of "Never Comin' Down" stand out like Humvees in a corn field. Mostly it doesn't work for me, but I'm pleasantly surprised by the songs that do draw me in, and though ultimately Carter's appeal turned out to be fairly limited, her brand of Nashville genre-bending seems much more intelligent and nuanced than most of her misguided contemporaries. Worth checking out, though it has its clunky moments.
Deana Carter "Father Christmas" (Rounder, 2001)
A remarkably understated acoustic Christmas album... Usually when Top 40 country stars do a holiday record, they tend to blast away at the songs -- I guess it's a chance for them to wail away on a different type of material? -- but Carter prefers to croon, and the results are low-key and kind of nice. Backing her up on acoustic guitar is her father, '50s session picker, Fred Carter, Jr... As an interesting family-oriented bonus, the disc also includes an interview she conducted (as a little kid) about his old days in Nashville. Worth checking out, if you're in a holiday mood. (For other Christmas records, see my Hillbilly Holiday section.)
Deana Carter "I'm Just A Girl" (Arista, 2003)
(Produced by Deana Carter & Dan Huff)
Too glossy and pop-oriented for me, though I do like the perky title track, a femme-positive pop anthem with a catchy chorus. I don't love the big shift in direction, but I guess folks gotta follow their own muse.
Deana Carter "The Story Of My Life" (Vanguard, 2005)
(Produced by Deana Carter)
I like Deana Carter, and I was happy when I'm Just A Girl album got her back into the country charts... Still, Carter's relationship with Nashville is always a little tenuous, since she likes to tilt towards a bright pop-rock sound that Music City tastemakers don't seem to appreciate, and this time around she's indulged that pop sweet-tooth to its fullest. Even I have to confess I was left a bit adrift by the brash twanglessness of this album's opener, "The Girl You Left Me For," which sounds just like the perky, sugary pop of teen singers such as Britney Spears, Hillary Duff and Lindsey Lohan. Carter wrote and produced this entire album, and its overt pop leanings couldn't be more purposeful... Still, one can't help but wonder if she hasn't simply squandered her newfound capital as a credible Nashville chart artist in a questionable pursuit of a less-charitable Pop god. In the past, I thought her balancing of pop and country was somewhat admirable and at times effective -- she seems to have a fresher take on rock music than many of the by-the-numbers Music Row songsmiths who tend to make everything sound like a bad soul ballad -- but she might have gone a little overboard on this one. Still, if you like the sound of contemporary Pop music, but wish it had deeper, more mature lyrics, this album might be an eye opener...
Deana Carter "The Chain" (Vanguard, 2007)
(Produced by Deana Carter)
Initially, Deana Carter made a career out of skating on the fine line between commercial country and rootsier Americana material, showing her savvy command of Nashville's modern sensibilities while letting fans know she had some real country roots. Then, on 2003's I'm Just A Girl, she went outright pop, throwing a lot of people for a loop, and continued on her poppy path for the follow-up, The Story Of My Life. Here, Carter takes some of the pressure off, not only by recording an album of cover tunes and classics, but also by bringing in a host of guest vocalists, including many of the original artists. It's an interesting set, not always what I'd like, but consistently engaging and intelligent, and Carter (thankfully) remains restrained and contained throughout, resisting the urge to showboat that often sinks similar projects. Highlights include a sober collaboration with Jessi Colter on "I'm Not Lisa," and a stunning, spooky reworking of "He Thinks I Still Care," with the ever-great George Jones summoning up one of the more striking performances of recent years. A duet with Kris Kristofferson, on his "Help Me Make It Through The Night," is also pretty solid, and Dolly Parton sails through her oldie-goldie "Love Is Like A Butterfly." There are a couple of misfires: it's nice to hear John Anderson's growly voice again, but "Swingin'" was never one of his best songs, and two musical dynasties prove tad shaky: Paul Simon's son, Harper, sounds just okay on "The Boxer," while Shooter Jennings demonstrates once again why he's really got to stop milking his dad's legacy: he just ain't got the mojo. Carter may be drawn to children of famous folks because she is one herself -- the concept behind this album is that it's a set of songs with artists that her dad, veteran session guitarist Fred Carter, worked with during his career. It's a nice idea, and these are great songs, although the handful of tunes where Deana sings by herself -- such as Neil Young's "Old Man," Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay," The Band's "The Weight" -- are some of the more affecting and mysterious tracks on the album. This one's worth checking out -- she offers interesting perspectives on these old songs, and also seems to be returning to her roots, if only for a little while.
Deana Carter "Southern Way Of Life" (Red River, 2014)
Carter took a long break from musicmaking in order to enjoy her family life... She returns with a pretty sweet-sounding pop/adult contemporary. Not enough twang here for me, but at least it's got a more-contemplative, less-rock folk-pop sound to it - not my cup of tea, but easy on the ears.
Hick Music Index