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Country - Released June 18, 1993 | Giant - Nashville

This is the album fans always dreamed she would make. While it shows off her love of, and ability to handle, various styles of music, she never loses her direction. © Jim Worbois /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2014 | New Rounder

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Country - Released January 1, 1990 | Warner Records - Nashville

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Country - Released September 6, 1996 | Giant - Nashville

Hindsight 20/20 is a comprehensive overview of Carlene Carter's career, concentrating on country hits like "Every Little Thing" and "I Fell in Love," but also touching on her earlier recordings like "Never Together But Close Sometimes." The compilation offers an excellent introduction and encapsulation of one of the finest female country singers of the '80s and '90s. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released August 4, 1995 | Giant - Nashville

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Country - Released March 4, 2008 | Yep Roc Records

The last time most folks heard about Carlene Carter, the news wasn't good -- in 2001, she and then-boyfriend Howie Epstein, who had produced her best-selling album I Fell in Love during downtime from his gig as bassist with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, spent the night in jail in New Mexico after they were pulled over in a stolen truck with nearly three grams of heroin. Since Carter hadn't released an album since 1995 and had a reputation for drinking and rowdy behavior, it was easy for many fans to imagine the worst, and while Carter began pulling herself back to health, she returned to the stage in 2003 in a musical set in Nashville about the Carter Family (in which she played her own mother, June Carter), that would prove to be a devastating year for her, as her mother, her step-father Johnny Cash, her sister Rosey Carter, and her former beau Epstein all died within the space of a few months. After all this, the mere fact that Carlene Carter is healthy, happily married, and making music again seems surprising enough, so it's doubly impressive that 2008's Stronger is one of her best and most personal albums to date. Carter's voice is deeper and a shade less flexible on Stronger than on her previous recordings, but she sounds soulful and impassioned and can still bring her songs to vivid, compelling life in the studio, and with the help of John McFee, who produced the sessions and plays most of the instruments, she's made a disc that's as lively as her music of the '80s and '90s without sidestepping the emotional gravity that informs her new material. With the exception of the opening cut "The Bitter End," Carter wrote all the songs on Stronger by herself, and while not every tune refers to the drama that's come into her life since her last album, "Judgment Day," "It Takes One to Know Me," and the title cut are clearly informed by the good and the bad that's come her way in the past dozen years, and even upbeat songs like "Why Be Blue" and "Break My Little Heart in Two" are tougher and edgier that you'd expect (and the remake of "I'm So Cool" from Musical Shapes adds some depth missing from the original). If Carlene Carter's dark days have aged her, it's done her music good -- Stronger shows she still has spunk and fire to spare, while also revealing a hard-won maturity and strength that richly, truly earns her the over-used appellation of "survivor." © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Country - Released August 1, 1980 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Country - Released March 14, 1978 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Country - Released June 12, 1979 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Country - Released January 1, 2014 | New Rounder

A great legacy can be a blessing and a curse, and when your mother is June Carter and your stepdad is Johnny Cash, you're going to have a lot to live up to in the minds of most folks. Carlene Carter has built a pretty remarkable career for herself as a vocalist, and after a dark period she made an impressive comeback with 2008's Stronger. But it's rare when a critic or biographer doesn't mention Carter's place in one of country music's founding families, and on 2014's Carter Girl, she embraces their vital role in country music's history while also putting her own stamp on their body of work. Ten of the 12 songs on Carter Girl were written by members of the Carter Family, the trio that wrote and recorded some of country's defining music in the '20s and '30s, while one of the remaining selections, touching on the death of Johnny and June, was adapted by Carlene Carter and Al Anderson from an old Carter Family classic ("Lonesome Valley"), and the other is a poignant tale of her grandparents' scuffling days before they rose to stardom ("Me and the Wildwood Rose"). When Carlene Carter sings about her family, one can hear the love and respect in her voice, as she seems to be in awe of them as much as any of us, and the two originals are deeply moving, but her interpretations of the Carter Family's songbook are also heartfelt and impressive. There's as much rock and blues as country in her takes on "Little Black Train," "Blackie's Gunman," and "Blackjack David," but Carter approaches these songs as something fresh and vital, and she fills them with her own fearless spirit, and when she takes a more traditional route on "Give Me the Roses" and "I'll Be All Smiles Tonight," she sounds strong yet compassionate, melding her strength with the sorrowful tone of the lyrics. And producer Don Was has brought out the best in Carter, matching her up with a top-notch band (including Greg Leisz on steel and electric guitar and Jim Keltner on drums) and bringing in Willie Nelson, Vince Gill, and Kris Kristofferson for memorable vocal cameos. On Carter Girl, Carlene Carter has confronted the mighty legacy of the Carter Family's songbook and allowed it to strengthen her music rather than buckling under its weight, and this ranks with her finest recorded work to date. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Pop - Released May 1, 1983 | Epic - Legacy

This not particularly interesting album suffers from lack of direction. It was the last album of her early period, before she re-created herself in 1990 as a country singer to be reckoned with. For die-hard fans only. © Jim Worbois /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2014 | New Rounder

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Country - Released January 1, 2014 | New Rounder

Booklet
A great legacy can be a blessing and a curse, and when your mother is June Carter and your stepdad is Johnny Cash, you're going to have a lot to live up to in the minds of most folks. Carlene Carter has built a pretty remarkable career for herself as a vocalist, and after a dark period she made an impressive comeback with 2008's Stronger. But it's rare when a critic or biographer doesn't mention Carter's place in one of country music's founding families, and on 2014's Carter Girl, she embraces their vital role in country music's history while also putting her own stamp on their body of work. Ten of the 12 songs on Carter Girl were written by members of the Carter Family, the trio that wrote and recorded some of country's defining music in the '20s and '30s, while one of the remaining selections, touching on the death of Johnny and June, was adapted by Carlene Carter and Al Anderson from an old Carter Family classic ("Lonesome Valley"), and the other is a poignant tale of her grandparents' scuffling days before they rose to stardom ("Me and the Wildwood Rose"). When Carlene Carter sings about her family, one can hear the love and respect in her voice, as she seems to be in awe of them as much as any of us, and the two originals are deeply moving, but her interpretations of the Carter Family's songbook are also heartfelt and impressive. There's as much rock and blues as country in her takes on "Little Black Train," "Blackie's Gunman," and "Blackjack David," but Carter approaches these songs as something fresh and vital, and she fills them with her own fearless spirit, and when she takes a more traditional route on "Give Me the Roses" and "I'll Be All Smiles Tonight," she sounds strong yet compassionate, melding her strength with the sorrowful tone of the lyrics. And producer Don Was has brought out the best in Carter, matching her up with a top-notch band (including Greg Leisz on steel and electric guitar and Jim Keltner on drums) and bringing in Willie Nelson, Vince Gill, and Kris Kristofferson for memorable vocal cameos. On Carter Girl, Carlene Carter has confronted the mighty legacy of the Carter Family's songbook and allowed it to strengthen her music rather than buckling under its weight, and this ranks with her finest recorded work to date. © Mark Deming /TiVo