- - Monday, August 25, 2014


As she will tell you herself, Carlene Carter is a road dog.

And at 58, this fourth-generation member of the storied Carter Family is on the road again, touring behind her latest album, “Carter Girl.” (The tour brings her, along with Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen, to the Birchmere in Alexandria on Thursday.)

Most of the new album, released by Rounder Records, consists of Ms. Carter’s reimagined renditions of Carter Family classics, such as “Gold Watch and Chain,” “Give Me the Roses” and “I Ain’t Gonna Work Tomorrow.”

But you’d be wrong to think of “Carter Girl“‘s 12 tracks as a trip down memory lane: Ms. Carter’s recordings, as well as her live performances, infuse these songs with vibrance and urgency as when they were first performed by the pioneers of country music.

This CD cover image released by Rounder Records shows "Carter Girl," the latest release by Carlene Carter. (AP Photo/Rounder Records)
This CD cover image released by Rounder Records shows “Carter Girl,” the ... more >

Ms. Carter recently talked to The Washington Times about the new album, her family and the road.

Question: You’ve had incredible success. What is it that has kept you recording and touring?

Answer: I’m an entertainer. It is my job. Beyond that, it’s my passion. I want to see the light in people’s eyes because they recognize themselves in my songs. I want people to buy the record and then hear me sing live. So you get to hear [the recording] and then hear me play it live. I love getting out and sharing the music with people in an intimate setting.

Q: A lot of musicians say that the road gets harder and harder over time, but you never seem to show any road weariness. What keeps you going?

A: I grew up on the road and toured a lot in my life. I’m quite the road dog. I’ll be out 250 or 300 days a year working. I’m trying to cover as much ground as I can.

Q: How would you describe your audience?

A: The audiences that come to see me now are my age or are just music lovers. They aren’t coming to check it out, they are coming to have the live experience. I inherited the Carter Family fans, [my stepfather Johnny Cash’s] fans, Carlene Carter fans, Carter-Cash fans. I have the white-hair crowd who are older than me and a lot of people that bring their kids. And there are just some younger fans that are pure music lovers.

Q: How would you describe your shows to someone who didn’t know anything about them?

A: It really depends on the venue I’m playing. There are some listening rooms where I’m playing to 300, 400, 500 people, and we expect to share an evening together. There are larger shows, smaller shows. Basically, I rely on the audiences to guide me. I talk to them, I sing for them and they guide me toward what they would enjoy. I ask them, “Do you want to know what’s behind this song?” And they tell me they do, and we have a conversation.

Q: Some second- or third-generation musicians rebel against their family’s musical heritage. You never have. Why is that?

Story Continues →