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Steve Peake

This Week's Forgotten Gem of the '80s - Carlene Carter - "Madness"

By April 17, 2013

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CarleneCarterMusicalShapes.jpgBlessed (or cursed, in some ways) by an ongoing association with music royalty through collaboration, marriage and direct family ties, country and roots rock artist Carlene Carter produced three interesting albums during the early '80s that proved she was a bona fide talent even when such links were put aside. The daughter of June Carter Cash and stepdaughter of Johnny Cash, Carter's entire coming of age must have been riddled with the expectations of a massive legacy. Nevertheless, she had established a legitimate solo career in her early twenties that included a romantic as well as professional partnership with English pub rock and roots rock legend Nick Lowe, with whom she established an entertaining, throwback sound that blended country, rockabilly and pop music elements in creative ways. Over the years, perhaps Carter has been overshadowed by the career of stepsister Rosanne Cash and the many musical accomplishments of her family lineage. But this is a singular artist who has maintained a fiercely independent approach to her own particular craft.

"Madness" is an album track from 1980's Musical Shapes that certainly bears the mark of new husband Lowe, but it's important to note that composing duties for that record fell almost exclusively to Carter herself and occasionally some unique co-writers such as Dave Edmunds and Doobie Brothers member John McFee. Vocally, Carter definitely represented a breath of fresh air during the period's general focus on country pop and new wave. Aided by Lowe's lean production and her own brash, renegade spirit, this tune could have easily made Carter a genuine star a full decade before she finally broke through, briefly, as a commercial if somewhat neo-traditionalist country artist. Sadly, it did no such thing, instead remaining a bit of a relic - fully apart from the '80s music zeitgeist.

Album Cover Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.

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