Various Artists - "Anchored in Love: A Tribute to June Carter Cash"
Originally published on MySpace 7 November 2007
Anchored in Love: A Tribute to June Carter Cash was crafted by John Carter Cash in memory of his famous mother. John is the only child June had with Johnny Cash, though two of his half-sisters (Carlene Carter and Rosanne Cash) appear on this album. The roster is pretty much a given; mostly, friends of Johnny and June's such as Willie Nelson, Billy Joe Shaver and Emmylou Harris show up and offer up a song. There really are no surprises here, save perhaps Billy Bob Thornton and the Peasall Sisters (yes, those "Warvey Girls" from O Brother, Where Art Thou?) on "Road to Kaintuck." The arrangements are all very earthy, acoustic, just as the original versions pioneered by June and her family all those decades ago.One thing that Anchored in Love underscores is how inseparable June Carter Cash has become from her husband Johnny. As Elvis Costello turns in "Ring of Fire" slowly, even smoldering, it is not June but Johnny and his raucous mariachi romp that is called to mind. Perhaps it doesn't help that the album opens with two duets, "If I Were a Carpenter" by Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow, and "Jackson" by Carlene Carter and Ronnie Dunn. Closing the album with Emmylou Harris singing June's paean to Johnny, "Song to John" also sends the message that June's world revolved entirely around Johnny.
Certainly, the artists involved with this project came to it with sincere respect and love for June Carter Cash. The problem, however, seems to be that John Carter Cash is turning into the new Hank Williams, Jr., basing his self-identity on an increasingly obsessed interpretation of his parents and their relationship. Just as Hank seems to have lived a life of denial that his parents divorced, John Carter Cash now seems intent on idealizing Johnny and June as the modern day American romance. This is never more evident than on the visible blurb for the accompanying book advertised in the CD booklet that notes John is the only child Johnny and June had together, as though that makes him somehow more of an authority on his famous parents than his older siblings. Unfortunately, then, between John Carter inserting himself and his father into this album, it falls short of being what it says it is: a tribute to June Carter Cash.