June Carter Cash: Wildwood Flower

As a memento mori, June Carter Cash’s Wildwood Flower should break the heart of any true lover of country music. June Carter Cash: Wildwood Flower (Dualtone Records)

As a memento mori, June Carter Cash’s Wildwood Flower should break the heart of any true lover of country music.

Even as production was concluding on the 13-track disc—only her third solo release, as well as the successor to 1999’s Grammy-winning Press On, which Dualtone recently reissued—Carter Cash, 73, died in mid-May of complications from cardiac surgery. Wildwood Flower thus forms an accidental but acute valedictory from one of the grandes dames of country music.

Moreover, in its form and content alike and in something like just 45 minutes, her last disc celebrates the tradition of that music in a breathtaking way. As produced by John Carter Cash, her son with Johnny Cash, Wildwood Flower sounds like a previously unknown Carter Family recording. Roughcast, vast in its modesty, by turns surprisingly gay and melancholy almost beyond endurance, it incorporates contributions from a delightful array of descendents of A.P., Sara, and Maybelle Carter, as well as Cash himself, former son-in-law Marty Stuart, and others—it’s quite the family affair. In addition, the majority of the numbers here come from the Carter Family catalog, among them “Keep on the Sunny Side” and the title track, which closes things in a singularly moving manner. Also included are “Temptation,” the sprightly final duet recorded by Carter Cash and her husband, and “Big Yellow Peaches,” with a hilarious spoken introduction on its improbable inspiration—actor Lee Marvin. An altogether lovely production, this disc will move many listeners to tears.

Far too soon did we lose her, June Carter Cash, the lady with the lightning smile who could go toe to toe with the Man in Black, and Wildwood Flower gloriously if grievously underscores the depths of our loss.

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