So I’m learning to play the autoharp, thanks to Doug for introducing it to me at our weekly jam/rehearsals. I can’t explain why, but I’ve always loved the sweet sound of this instrument; back to my days of listening to THE CARTER FAMiLY & MOTHER MAYBELLE play so so beautifully. Last night FiVE EASY PiECES got together & worked out several new (& old ) tunes to add to our repertoire, including ‘Wildwood Flower’, allowing me the perfect opportunity to get the hang of the autoharp while singing the classic tune. Check out some images from last nights music fest.
Posts Tagged ‘The Carter Family’
Back in 2011 I did a photo shoot very much inspired by my family and our Ukrainian background. I had been experimenting with all sorts of eccentric characters and shoots by then, but I found myself thinking about my grandparents and even great-grandparents; their history surviving and thriving in Saskatchewan during some of the hardest times before the 1930′s and on. I may not know a great deal of that history, certainly not as much as my two Uncles, whom have fortunately retained a lot of those stories passed down to them from their Uncles, Aunts and parents. At times I find myself very much wanting to be connected to that history – to know and understand my roots as well as pay respect to those important and beloved people before me.
I inevitably I ended up imaging what my life would/could have looked like had I been born in this generation. How could I have lived, even as a gay male – would I have suppressed all of that – opted for a life of family and hard work in the fields or mines? How would I have faced the possibility of going off to war? What would life have looked like through his eyes and what were the stories would have told?
Eventually, after time spent in character, I came up with two images; first I imagined a younger CC, before the second world war he would more than likely have found himself faced with as did my family. He would have been living in Saskatchewan on the farms, a part of my families history long gone. Later on I experimented with make-up and lighting – coming up with an older version of that same CC; I imagined him to be a quiet sort of man – a hard worker and dedicated to his family. Perhaps he would have been a single and solitary ‘bachelor’ – who knows – but I did enjoy the process and the outcome. The photo is very much a tribute to the past and my family which has always provided me with a source of fascination and inspiration.
I’ve also included a shot recently taken by myself, as I tested out my camera and some costumes I had borrowed for a different shoot. Let me know what you think – it’s a sort of alternative to this idea; more decadent, outlandish and luxurious - definitely a sort of character from that time….
Thanks in part to JOHNNY CASH and JUNE CARTER there was a time in country music, particularly during the late 60’s and 1970’s where the trend was to pair a Country King and Country Queen together in vocal harmony. It was the golden age of country and western duets – resulting in two strong individual voices uniting together in holy melody.
Below I’ve outlined four of what are in my opinion, country music’s quintessential duet partnerships of our time. I’ve done this in effort to celebrate these partnerships as well remind people of their musical contribution in general – for this particular tradition of duets is a thing of the past – or is it? I would like to think not, but for today I suggest if you’re unfamiliar with any of the following musical pairings – you might wanna go right out and download them today!
Something I enjoyed about the partnership that was JUNE and JOHNNY CASH was the terrific sense of family and tradition they brought to their live shows and music. If the intent was to have a hoe-down throw-down of a good time – you got “Jackson” or “It Ain’t Me Babe”, two of this duo’s greatest hits and ones that they often played on the road in their hey-day. Yet, fast forward to JUNE’S 1991 ‘Press On’ and you’ll hear “Far Side Banks Of Jordan”, arguably the most utterly beautiful tale of love and dedication JUNE and JOHNNY ever recorded together period.
Written by schoolteacher TERRY SMiTH, ‘Far Side Banks of Jordan’ sounds as though it could very well be taken from the pages of their life story. Its simple message is one of devotion – even in afterlife. The delivery of this pledge is touching and beautiful particularly when you stop to appreciate how the sounds of time and age come out in each of their respective voices. Far more experienced than 1970’s ‘If I Were A Carpenter’ – yet no more or less significant in terms of musical genius. The combined experience they are able to draw from is very evident within the words of each line and the end result is heavy with commitment.
Another aspect about JUNE and JOHNNY CASH I found interesting was that JUNE had already been considered a pioneer of country music, having been born into THE CARTER FAMILY (aka. A.P, SARA, ‘MOTHER’ MAYBELLE). MAYBELLE had three daughters (THE CARTER SISTERS: ANiTA, HELEN & JUNE), all of whom appeared live on stage and television before JOHNNY CASH ever entered the picture. To me JUNE and JOHNNY’S music is grounded in THE CARTER FAMiLY’S epic history of tradition and song and it continues to live on.
“Honky Tonk Girl” LORETTA LYNN brought to country music a traditional sound with a candid, contemporary attitude, particularly in her own oft-humorous but straight-forward compositions. She had a determidly pro-woman point of view.
This point of view made for some incredible duets between LORETTA and CONWAY TWiTTY, singer of ‘Hello Darlin’’ and country star in his own right. TWiTTY had originally been pegged as a rock n’ roll singer at the beginning of his career, eventually embracing his country side. Together, CONWAY and LORETTA (as they were known in their act), won four consecutive Country Music Association awards for vocal duo (1972–75) and a host of other duo and duet awards from other organizations throughout the 1970s.
LORETTA and CONWAY were never actually married as were JUNE and JOHNNY CASH, yet their duets often implied as much, establishing another aspect of the country and western duet that I loved. When you think about it – it was easy for listeners to assume that LORETTA and CONWAY were indeed married. ‘After the Fire is Gone’, ‘Louisiana Woman/Mississippi Man’ and ‘Feelin’s’ typically played off the idea that they were either in marital heaven or – hell. Either way it’s clear that together they had a great deal of fun, making the music truly enjoyable to listen to. The duo of LORETTA LYNN and CONWAY TWiTTY was built on a foundation of friendship and mutual respect and therefore in the end it didn’t matter that both were happily married to other people – for the world enjoyed the fantasy.
DOLLY PARTON’S rags-to-riches story is by now one most people know and understand – however few people know the depth of the story behind her musical partnership with PORTER WAGONER. At a very early time in PARTON’S career her songwriting efforts and minor radio play grabbed the attention of WAGONER, a major country and western television star of THE PORTER WAGONER SHOW. He hired PARTON as his duet partner in 1967, charmed by her songwriting ability, unique voice, and sex-bomb appearance – sky high platinum wig, JAYNE MANSFiELD figure accentuated by skintight country-lass garb, and bubbly, down-home personality. WAGONER himself a blonde, rhinestone-bespangled dandy, helped PARTON wrangle a deal with RCA; and in return she breathed new life into his tired act, contributing her fresh, tradition-based country songs to his repertoire. In addition to the show, they recorded separately and together over the next seven years. Similar to LORETTA LYNN and CONWAY TWiTTY, their songs were often filled with comic fighting couples, tragic dying children, and old-timey country folks – and their onstage and recorded sparring was reflective of their real-life love-hate relationship.
History aside, it’s the music of WAGONER and PARTON that stands the test of time and I personally cherish the most of any duet partnership, primarily because every aspect and every ingredient brought together by these two separate entities makes for some of the finest harmonies ever put on record between man and woman. These two were also a major force to be reckoned with as they not only dominated the country music charts but garnered many CMA awards for their duets. Personally I think ‘Tomorrow Is Forever’ may just be the best example of this marriage of voices, yet over the span of their seven recording years together they have no shortage of breathtaking music.
Over the past 20 years GEORGE JONES has frequently been referred to as “the greatest living country singer”, while his counterpart TAMMY WYNETTE was known as the First Lady of Country Music – making for one dynamic duo in music history.
Throughout his long career, JONES made headlines often as much for his singing as for tales of his drinking, stormy relationships with women and violent rages as for his prolific career of making records and touring. To me he was an artist in the true sense of the word – because as rough as his personal life may have been, as a vocalist JONES had a distinct way of singing where you couldn’t help but become immersed in whatever he sang about; be it honkytonks or heartache.
Similarly WYNETTE’S signature way of singing showcased her ability to understand true loneliness and heartache – which were often reoccurring themes in her solo music. JONES and WYNETTE married in 1969, creating a country music ‘couple’ in the true sense of the word – eventually recording a series of duet albums and singles. These albums and singles charted throughout the 1970’s, concurrent to their respective solo hits. How often does this happen today?
As was his personal life prior to WYNETTE, JONES infamously battled addiction and therefore it was no surprise that this dynamic duo ended in D.I.V.O.R.C.E in 1975, yet any true fan of country and western music will most certainly remember them together as much as they will always be praised for their unique solo efforts. It’s not difficult to listen to songs like ‘We’re Gonna Hold On’ or ‘Golden Ring’ and understand that as much love as they shared, they were no strangers marital problems and further more any status of theirs didn’t make them above the most common problems that tear two lovers apart. In many ways I believe it was this dynamic between them that served the recordings so well – lending to the overall magic. Lyrics were often simple yet the vocals of each were anything but. Together it made for a big impact.
CHECK out these youtube links for more on the great duet partnerships:
PRESS ON was released in 1999, 4 years before JUNE CARTER CASH passed away at the age of 74. Accompanying June on an album almost entirely written by June herself are several formidable musicians including MARTY STUART (mandolin, acoustic guitar, vocals), RODNEY CROWELL (vocals, acoustic guitar) and June’s own legendary MAN iN BLACK, JOHNNY CASH. When she and her band aren’t laying down a foot-thumping tale of some kind, June will pick up her autoharp and turn the feeling around to one of SPiRiT and PAiN. And she particularly shines on the albums 3 ORiGiNAL CARTER FAMiLY songs (Diamonds In the Rust, Meeting In the Air, Will the Circle Be Unbroken), perhaps in part because the family songs hold much meaning and memory for her. In fact, PRESS ON has several family connections, as June looks to her family to sing and play with throughout the entire album, using her adult children and grandchildren on many songs. The results are effortless, touching and fun.
In short, PRESS ON gives us June’s story in snap shots that come in the form of some very beautiful music. At one moment June’s aged voice can sing of her childhood memories growing up in the mountains, to finding herself now a deeply religious and spiritual woman of life experience. She’s feisty and sounds interested in having us remember her gift for music. Above all you get a sense that June was and remained a vivacious woman surrounded by many who loved and respected her.
Speaking of being surrounded by those who loved her, a highlight of PRESS ON comes with June and Johnny Cash’s duet THE FAR SiDE BANKS OF JORDAN. This recording alone is a very special piece of history on record.