This Xmas season I stopped listening to the radio and plugged in my tape of Carlene Carter and some of her aunts and cousins and sisters, known variously as the Carter Family or the Carter Sisters.
I reckon it’s the closest I’m likely to come to listening to the Heavenly Choir. Not only do they have great voices, they each have a lifetime of learning to sing together, and on top of that they sing songs that really capture the spirit of America in times past.
Grandpa A.P. Carter roamed across the country gathering folk songs and his children and their children have grown up singing them. I suppose their children’s children will too. It’s a wonderful gift that’s been passed along over the generations.
Carlene gives us a glimpse of what it was like to grow up in the consummate musical family in her tribute to Mother Maybelle:
“We’d be way down the road by the break of dawn,
Biscuits and gravy and a truckstop song.
In a world of my own, I saw what I saw.
In the rearview mirror
I got a wink from my grandma.
“And if I could change one thing in this world
I’d go back to the days of Grandma and her girls
Singing sweet and low…”
I can’t find this record in Carlene’s discography, so I don’t know who exactly is on it. My friend Dave Pinkerton made it for me.
It has some of Carlene’s great songs like Quarter Moon, Ten Cent Town and I Fell in Love, (check it out, complete with chicken guitar) but it has lots of beautiful old tunes, too, like Fifty Miles of Elbow Room and The Little Brown Church in the Dale and The Banks of the Ohio.
I’ve listened to this tape hundreds and hundreds of times and I still get teary every time. There’s one song by Dave Loggins called Natural Life that gives me shivers up and down my spine. The last verse goes like this:
“When I die, I hope my soul will go to heaven
‘Cause I know that I’m just passing through this world,
But I believe that God gave everyone an angel
Just to have a little taste of Heaven
While living here on this Earth.”
I’ve sure had my taste, and I reckon she knows who she is. Merry Christmas, cupcake.