Music Review: The Winding Stream: The Carters, The Cashes and The Course Of Country Music

Published on October 16th, 2015 in: Current Faves, Feminism, Movies, Music, Music Reviews, Retrovirus, Reviews, Soundtracks and Scores |

By Melissa Bratcher


One might say that if it weren’t for the Carter family, country music as we know it (or knew it, rather) wouldn’t exist. Director Beth Harrington’s film, The Winding Stream: The Carters, The Cashes And The Course Of Country Music, explores that notion, starting with A.P Carter, his wife Sara and sister-in-law Maybelle, following that stream to the Carter Sisters, to June Carter and Johnny Cash, all the way to Rosanne Cash. The Carters’ influence was far-reaching, shaping ancient melodies into popular songs, and pushing the guitar into the forefront of American music.

As you’d imagine, the soundtrack to The Winding Stream is brilliant and illuminating. It’s worth purchasing simply for the tracks from The Original Carter Family, which are fascinating. Maybelle Carter’s guitar playing is propulsive and compelling, and she pulls sounds from an acoustic that are quite innovative on “Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow.” Sara Carter’s vocals on “Single Girl, Married Girl” are plaintive and haunting, but what was really interesting was the scandalous tale attached to “I’m Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes” that’s related in the liner notes (written by director Beth Harrington).

Maybelle and Sara Carter’s “Sweet Fern” is lovely and wistful. Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters (June, Anita and Helen) hit the sweet spot with the gorgeous, high crystalline harmonies of “Wildwood Flower.” It’s goosebumps-inducing. Adding Johnny Cash into the mix of the Carter Sisters on “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” gives the easy feel of a family singalong (which it was) where everyone gets a verse.

The Winding Stream isn’t all Carters or Cashes, though, and that’s okay as well. Murry Hammond from the Old 97s turns in two tracks, one with Grey DeLisle. “Lord I’m In Your Care” is beautiful and gentle, benefiting from DeLisle’s heartfelt phrasing. Hammond’s “In The Shadow Of Clinch Mountain” has an incredibly warm sound. Hammond has a velvety, relaxed voice, and there is some excellent whistling happening here. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is joined by Kris Kristofferson on “Gold Watch And Chain,” a sad, O Henry-esque tale, with accordion and acoustic guitar and glorious harmonies.

There’s a fine George Jones track, “Worried Man Blues,” in which Mr. Jones wakes up with “29 links of chain around my leg.” It’s a tune rich with instrumentation and a super crisp cymbal sound. The standout track, in an album of standout tracks, would be John Prine’s “Bear Creek Blues.” The percussive guitar, the chugging beat, muted mandolin, it’s all so bright and sharp and crisp. It’s amazing sounding.

The best soundtracks make you want to watch the film, even if you haven’t. The Winding Stream: The Carters, The Cashes, And The Course Of Country Music tells a fascinating, important story, simply through the wisely chosen tracks on the album. You needn’t have seen the documentary to enjoy the album, but certainly after you’ve heard the album, you’ll want to see the film.

The Winding Stream: The Carters, The Cashes and The Course Of Country Music was released by Omnivore Recordings on October 16.

2 Responses to “Music Review: The Winding Stream: The Carters, The Cashes and The Course Of Country Music”

  1. Greg Snider:
    October 16th, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    Awesome review!

  2. Popshifter:
    October 16th, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    Thanks for reading and commenting, Greg!


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