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CD Review: Carlene Carter 

Stronger

The Deal: Country royalty pedigree doesn't always mean quality.

The Good: "If this song doesn't put the cunt back in country, nothing will," Carlene Carter said in 1979, introducing her song "Swap Meat Rag." That remark, uttered in the presence of stepfather Johnny Cash, got the singer more notoriety than her singing career had up till that point. 1990's quirky pop/country crossover hit "I Fell In Love" got her noticed again, with the song going to number one on the country charts. Since then, Carter's only claim to fame has been being arrested, along with now deceased boyfriend, Tom Petty bassist Howie Epstein, for possession of heroin in a stolen car in 2001. Listening to her latest, Stronger, it's hard to believe this is the same woman who allegedly put the c-word in country. It's not that the work here is bad, it's just average. Where's the fire? At 52, we don't expect Carter to kick up her heels, but a little more enthusiasm wouldn't hurt. Carter discusses her sense of loss in the title cut, bemoaning the loss of her younger sister. But it's delivered in a flat, nasal drone featuring the cliché "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger" ad nauseum. Even the up-tempo numbers like "Break My Little Heart In Two" sound like they were phoned in – she's just reading the lyrics, not delivering them. "Why Be Blue" is everything bad that new country represents – empty pop with banjos inserted to give it country cred.

The Bad: If she's as tired of the biz as she sounds like, maybe she oughta step out of the way and let some younger ones blast their way through.

The Verdict: Pass.

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