"h3"About the Artist
"p"It's been nearly 75 years since A. P. Carter, his wife Sara, and sister-in-law Maybelle Carter met recording pioneer Ralph Peer in Bristol on the Virginia/Tennessee line, and the impact of that meeting is still felt today. Bristol recently proclaimed itself The Birthplace of Country Music as a result, and fans and scholars alike are still drawn to this mecca for its history and its lore.
Many visitors who seek the source of traditional country music in Bristol eventually find their way down a nearby lonesome hollow, past the old railway station at Hiltons, along a two-lane blacktop called the A. P. Carter Memorial Highway, to a homemade amphitheater called the Carter Fold.
Here, every Saturday night, the salt of the earth gather to hear Janette and Joe Carter - daughter and son of A. P. and Sara - hold forth. Evening shows at the Carter Fold feature the old-time or bluegrass musical talents of their weekly guest artists along with a performance by Janette and Joe, and always include a healthy serving of Carter Family songs. The crowd is here to listen, dance, and enjoy some real music.
These wise people know which road to follow to find the music they want - and need - to hear. So, too, do some of today's finest musicians. Singers Ginny Hawker and Kay Justice figured out a long time ago how gripping, how true, and how beautiful is the music of the Carter Family. When they first met in West Virginia in 1986 and began to perform and record together, their mutual admiration for the Carter style and repertoire gave them some of their most thrilling musical moments. Indeed, each of their three recordings since then, and nearly all of their live performances over the past 14 years, have included some Carter Family material.
"p"It was good news, then, when Gary Reid of Copper Creek suggested to Kay and Ginny that they create a recording devoted exclusively to the songs of the Carter Family. The result is this sparkling collection which you hold in your hands.
"p"Ginny Hawker grew up in a musical home in "Old" Virginia before eventually setting down roots in the mountains of Gilmer County in central West Virginia. She is an active and intense musician whose personal repertoire ranges from Primitive Baptist hymns to honky-tonk love songs.
"p"Kay Justice, born in the coal country of southern West Virginia, lives in historic Abingdon, Virginia, not far from The Birthplace of Country Music, the A. P. Carter Memorial Highway, and the weekly gatherings at the Carter Fold. Kay works as a medical professional. She is also a dedicated musician with instrumental prowess to match her vocal skills.
"p"Together, Ginny and Kay are something to hear. With strong individual voices and impressive ranges, they can each handle lead or harmony parts with equal power, as these tracks attest. They continually challenge themselves, vary their vocal arrangements, and tackle material that would intimidate most other singers. They set their sights plenty high with this collection of Carter Family material, and I think you will agree that they nailed it to the wall.
"p"From the bell-like harmony of "Broken Hearted Lover" to the weaving in-and-out-of-unison arrangement heard on "Amber Tresses," this is a recording of remarkable depth and complexity. It manages to stay true to the vintage sound of the Carter Family while, at the same time, it is bold and innovative. Kay's voice rings so close to that of Sara Carter at times that my ears did a double-take even after several listens. Ginny's voice, on the other hand, is uniquely textured and unmistakable, never reminding me of anyone else. Mac Traynham lends an air of authenticity to the proceedings with his A. P. Carter-esque bass harmony singing on several tracks.
Contributing further to this collection are the instrumental talents of Kay, Tracy Schwarz, Mike Seeger, and Amy Michels. Tracy and Mike have played music together for more than 40 years in various combinations including the New Lost City Ramblers. Their accumulated knowledge of American roots music could fill a sizable library. Here they lay down a solid groove behind the vocals, and offer impeccably sparce and tasteful instrumental fills and breaks. Like the vocal work, the instrumentation evokes the sound and feel of the original recordings while demonstrating refreshing creativity. The tuned down guitar played by Tracy on several tracks takes a page directly out of Maybelle Carter's book, while Mike Seeger's autoharp playing reflects his own personal touch. The double banjo accompaniment on "Sunshine" is a masterstroke.
Then there are the songs! Like most serious singers, Ginny and Kay are constantly searching for unique material and they certainly did their homework for this Carter Family project. No stranger to the Carter set list myself, at least half of these songs were new - and pleasant surprises - to me. They bear the Carter brand, however, with poetic lyrics, unexpected phrasing, and familiar themes. A. P. Carter loved to explore the hills near his home, collecting folksongs and song ideas which he then crafted into repertoire for his successful family band. As a result, many of these songs have an ancient feel to them, well beyond their early 20th century years. We are fortunate that Ginny and Kay have taken so much care not only to preserve these rare songs, but to breath into them new life.
Several popular or classic Carter Family songs are presented here, as well, including "On the Rock (Cryin' Holy Unto the Lord)," "Midnight on the Stormy Deep," and "Waves on the Sea." Two standout tracks for me are the gospel numbers "Look Away from the Cross" and "Walkin' in the King's Highway."
One final note: This recording deserves high praise for its technology as well as for its music. Ginny and Kay's voices sound as pure and natural as they would in a quiet living room, and the tone quality of the instrumentation -- the guitars in particular -- captures that yesterday-and-today sound to perfection. Nice work in the studio!
"p"Combine great singing, timeless material, mature musicianship, inspired arrangements, judicious engineering and mixing, and a soulful edge, and this is what you get. You get a heartfelt tribute to one of America's great musical families, and a testament to the strength and importance of traditional music in a modern age. This recording will ring in our ears for many years to come. John Lilly, Editor Goldenseal magazine BAND_MEMBERS: Ginny Hawker, Kay Justice, Tracy Schwarz, Mike Seeger, Mac Traynham, Amy Michels