Musical Shapes

by Carlene Carter

Released August 1, 1980
Warner Bros. Records
Released August 1, 1980
Warner Bros. Records
"She has blended Carter Family country traditionalism with the energy and intelligence of British new-wave rock. The results are just delightful. Miss Carter does what she does with enormous charm." JOHN ROCKWELL, THE NEW YORK TIMES
1. Cry (Carlene Carter)
2. Madness (Carlene Carter)
3. Baby Ride Easy (with Dave Edmunds) (Richard Dobson)
4. Bandit Of Love (Carlene Carter)
5. I'm So Cool (Carlene Carter)
6. Appalachian Eyes (Carlene Carter / John McFee)
7. Ring Of Fire (June Carter / Merle Kilgore)
8. Too Bad About Sandy (Carlene Carter)
9. Foggy Mountain Top (A.P. Carter)
10. That Very First Kiss (Carlene Carter)
11. To Drunk (Too Remember) (Anni O'Brien)
12. Too Proud (Carlene Carter)

Produced by Nick Lowe.
Carlene Carter - piano.
Dave Edmunds - guitar, backing vocals.
Billy Bremner - guitar.
Nick Lowe - bass.
Terry Williams - drums.
John McFee - guitar.
Johnny Ciambotti - bass.
Sean Hopper - organs.
Kevin Wells - drums.
Bob Andrews - Hammond.
Roger Rettick - pedal steel.
Photography - Chalkie Davies.

"Musical Shapes" is an example of what happens when British new wave meets up with Nashville country and finds happiness reincarnated as rockabilly. Carter is a straightforward, non-gimmicky singer who delivers her vocals in clipped, hard-edged barrages, but can also turn around and produce a masterpiece of control such as "Too Proud," which shows a completely different side of her artistry.
KIP KIRBY, BILLBOARD (November 15, 1980)

With "Musical Shapes," Carlene finally comes into her own. It represents her rapprochement with the music she grew up with, filtered through her own sassy, barroom sensibility.

Sonny and Cher. Ike and Tina. Steve and Eydie. The roll call of illustrious show business couples could go on and on. Now you can add to that glittering list Nick Lowe and Carlene Carter--musicians from different worlds who've forged a successful working relationship as well as a personal one. If "Nick and Carlene" doesn't have the same ring as "George and Tammy," never mind; theirs is a unique situation. Both Carter and Lowe are creative popsters with plenty to offer on their own, which is why their collaboration on Carter's third LP, "Musical Shapes," is such delightful entertainment. "Musical Shapes" is hardly a Rockpile album in disguise, nor is it your usual pale country-rock. It is Carter's record--the work of a vital, witty singer, with an exceptionally sympathetic support band. Highlights include a greasy duet with Dave Edmunds on "Baby Ride Easy," the cheerfully snotty "I'm So Cool," and two tracks salvaged from the original sessions for the second L.P.

The quality of the voice was of course never in doubt from her first recording. It is not stylish in the sense that Maybelle's was, or Johnny's or June's or her father Carl Smith's is; its identifying marks are subtler. It reminds you that the closer you get to purity, the less you find of what we call "style." But you'll get the hang of picking out those marks after a few listens, if you haven't got it already. "Musical Shapes" is, to date, the most rewarding vehicle with which to do that. The Carter Family not only survives branching out into rock; in Carlene's case, it clearly flourishes.

For some years, people have been calling for a female equivalent of country music's "outlaws"--a woman singer who didn't deny her femininity, but who also suggested a tough, rocking, contemporary image. Well, that woman has arrived, but with the currently confused state of the record and radio markets, she hasn't been recognized by the mass public. Yet for Carlene Carter not to become a star would seem to be a denial of both destiny and common sense. The daughter of June Carter, the stepdaughter of Johnny Cash, and the wife of British pub-rocker Nick Lowe, she has blended Carter Family country traditionalism with the energy and intelligence of British new-wave rock. The results are just delightful. Miss Carter does what she does with enormous charm, and one wishes that radio and the mass public would catch on quickly.

In 1980, Carter, of the impeccable hillbilly pedigree, took her legacy to an outer branch of the family tree when she recorded her third LP, "Musical Shapes," one of the finest country-rock albums of the post-rockabilly age.

Now this is how to do a reissue, two albums and bonus tracks on one disc at a budget price. With Carter's nifty return to recording last year ("I Fell In Love"), this is a fine time to reassess these lost treasures. The music dates from 1980 and 1981 and features her then-husband Nick Lowe with his backing bands (Rockpile on "Shapes" and His Cowboy Outfit on "Nun"). "Musical Shapes" came out in the U.S. on Warner Bros. and was pegged at the time as roots-type rock. Today it frankly sounds a lot like Carter's recent country CD, which points up how far the country charts have moved toward old rock sounds as the rock charts moved toward Vegas synthesized disco.

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