Chain

Chain

5.0 2
by Deana Carter
     
 

In a tribute to her father, the legendary session guitarist Fred Carter Jr., Deana Carter assays some of the great tunes to which her dad contributed his sonic signature. But the concept doesn't end there. On many of the numbers, she enlists as duet partners the artists who recorded the originals -- including Kris Kristofferson on "Help Me Make It Through the Night,"… See more details below

Overview

In a tribute to her father, the legendary session guitarist Fred Carter Jr., Deana Carter assays some of the great tunes to which her dad contributed his sonic signature. But the concept doesn't end there. On many of the numbers, she enlists as duet partners the artists who recorded the originals -- including Kris Kristofferson on "Help Me Make It Through the Night," Jessi Colter on "I'm Not Lisa," Dolly Parton on "Life Is Like a Butterfly," Willie Nelson for "On the Road Again," John Anderson on "Swinging," and George Jones on "He Thinks I Still Care." Paul Simon's not on "The Boxer," but his son Harper is; Waylon Jennings is supplanted by his son Shooter on "Good Hearted Woman"; Deana takes solo turns on Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay," an ethereal reading of Neil Young's "Old Man," the late Roy Orbison's "Cryin'," and the Band's "The Weight." The duets are all terrific -- Dolly's a real standout with her wispy, whimsical reading -- and worth the price of the album alone. But in honoring the father, the daughter demonstrates all she's learned, and that's a story. She sings, in the seductive, husky voice that is one of contemporary music's most alluring sounds; she plays solid acoustic guitar throughout and does all the various programming of synths, guitars, drums, etc.; and she produces the whole enterprise with a sure hand for clean, affecting, uncluttered sonics, framing the vocal performances beautifully in subtle, layered soundscapes. She doesn't try to mimic the originals but rather finds her own place in a mostly rustic setting, imbuing "The Boxer," for example, with lilting country accents and casting "She Thinks I Still Care" as an austere folk ballad with acoustic guitar, viola, and organ. No new Carter songs here, alas, but, oh, this will do just fine for now.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
Duet records are big deals, especially in the country music world, where seasoned veterans seem to put them out just to get back on the charts or to keep from completely disappearing from view. Ask Willie Nelson, he's done at least half a dozen. Veteran Reba McEntire scored 500,000 units in the first week with her 2007 Reba Duets album. The Chain is a duet recording of sorts, though thankfully not everything here is one. Deana Carter's 2005 album The Story of My Life is one of the great songwriter recordings of the 21st century thus far, and if it was commercially under-appreciated it wasn't critically, and anyone who heard it needed to own a copy. It will always be a stellar aesthetic triumph in her career. Given her restlessness as an artist and her early brush with the charts and stardom on her 1995 debut Did I Shave My Legs for This? has probably been a thorn she's had to contend with ever since. Alas. What The Chain has to do with all this is that it feels contrived. A collection of cover songs is one thing, a way of paying back something to all the careers that inspired one's own. Carter's a fine singer and has always had some compelling ideas about production -- even if they are at times quirky, they more often than not bring some hidden depth and dimension to any song she cuts. Here, the production is wonderful, but the choice to use most of these people as singing partners -- and some of the songs she chose -- just don't get it. The set begins well, with her excellent reading of Roy Orbison's "Crying," it's full of soul even with its synth strings and loops. It works like a charm. There is even some tenderness when she duets with Kris Kristofferson on his "Help Me Make It Through the Night." The duets begin on Paul Simon's "The Boxer." Singing with Harper Simon, who just plain can't sing, makes its six minutes and 12 seconds feels like an hour. He and Dan Dugmore do some cool guitar stuff (the latter on pedal steel of course), but it's interminable because of the awful contrast of voices and its length. Carter's reading of Bob Dylan's "Lay lady Lay" feels stilted and plodding, despite its pristine sound and the nice backing vocal touches she adds. Dolly Parton's "Love Is Like a Butterfly" is quite beautiful and even a tad psychedelic thanks to Carter's production, but her reading of Robbie Robertson's "The Weight" should never have been attempted. The piano sound is there, but Carter is not Mavis or Pops Staples and that song has been defined by them at this point (yes, it is far superior to the Band's as well -- just ask Robbie Robertson), and should never be covered again in the current epoch. Her appearance with Jessi Colter on "I'm Not Lisa" works well enough; it's a simple song and skeletally produced, and Colter gets inside that heartbreaking lyric with her grainy voice and turns it inside out, as Carter comes off sounding like a younger version of a person living through the same thing. Two generations of women haunted by similar ghosts. The rough and rowdy version of John Anderson's "Swinging" is bigger, trippier, and at least as much fun in Carter's production: Anderson and Carter funk it up Muscle Shoals style and it works like a charm. Oh yeah, big surprise that Nelson is here to help out with Carter's radical re-interpretation of his "On the Road Again," that feels more like a psychedelic version of Jackie DeShannon doing Nelson. It's all pillowy, dreamy, and droney tune in her reading, and production-wise, it's interesting, but there's no way to pull off those words and that feeling without it being up-tempo. Shooter Jennings duets with Carter on Nelson's and his late father Waylon Jennings' "Good Hearted Woman," and adds some much needed grit to the proceedings. All one can say about Carter's version of Dickey Lee's "She Thinks I Still Care," done with George Jones, can only be mentioned with a question attached: "what was she thinking?" The album closes with Neil Young's "Old Man." Dugmore helps on acoustic and electric guitars, Randy Leago's spooky organ, her own electric piano work -- and a wise use of synth strings and minimal programming -- with her voice actually ringing out on that refrain for the first time on the entire record, sends it off with great vibes as it's the strongest performance on the set. The bottom line is that while Carter may have had every intention of paying tribute to her heroes on this one, which is admirable, the execution falls short of the mark by more than a hair here. It would have worked better as strictly a covers set, or had she written her own songs, produced them the same way, and paid tribute to her heroes that way.

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Product Details

Release Date:
10/09/2007
Label:
Vanguard Records
UPC:
0015707983129
catalogNumber:
79831
Rank:
269782

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Deana Carter   Primary Artist
George Jones   Vocals,Guest Appearance
Kris Kristofferson   Vocals,Guest Appearance
Willie Nelson   Vocals,Guest Appearance
Dolly Parton   Vocals,Guest Appearance
Paul Simon   Acoustic Guitar
Jessi Colter   Vocals,Guest Appearance
Dan Dugmore   Acoustic Guitar,Mandolin,Steel Guitar
Randy Leago   Organ,Flute,Piano,Accordion,Keyboards
Glenn Worf   Bass
Andrea Zonn   Violin,Viola
Fred Carter   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Classical Guitar
Jeff Carter   Electric Guitar
Harper Simon   Electric Guitar,Vocals,Guest Appearance
John Anderson   Vocals,Guest Appearance
Shooter Jennings   Vocals,Guest Appearance
Shawn Jones   Electric Guitar
Kyle Woodring   Drums

Technical Credits

Waylon Jennings   Composer
Kris Kristofferson   Composer
Willie Nelson   Composer
Dolly Parton   Composer
Paul Avgerinos   Engineer
Bob Dylan   Composer
Robbie Robertson   Composer
Paul Simon   Composer
Neil Young   Composer
Dickey Lee   Composer
Gary Paczosa   Engineer
Doug Sax   Mastering
Deana Carter   Arranger,Producer
Jason Lehning   Engineer
Georgette Cartwright   Creative Services Coordinator
Otto D'Agnolo   Engineer
Joe Melson   Composer
Mirriam Eddy   Composer
Yohei Goto   Engineer
Sanwook "Sunny" Nam   Mastering

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