For most children growing up, parents are the farthest thing from “cool,” especially their parents’ music. It was the exact opposite for Deana Carter, whose father Fred Carter Jr. played as a session guitarist for some of country music’s biggest names, contributing to legendary recordings by Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel, just to name a few.
“Frankly, I just feel like a link in the chain of privilege,” she said, explaining the title of her latest and fifth album, The Chain.
“I’m just a little piece in the puzzle,” Carter told CMT.com. “I’m a significant piece — because we all are — but I’m realizing what my place is and how I fit in and just being proud of that. It’s really cool. And for my son, it’s passing down the gavel. The torch is being handed over and my dad has handed me the torch now, and it’s just a tribute to that.”
The Chain features Carter singing alongside Kris Kristofferson, Jessi Colter, Dolly Parton, John Anderson, Willie Nelson, George Jones and others. Since her father’s musicianship is featured in several of these artists’ music, picking which songs to use for the album proved challenging. Carter said she chose Parton’s “Love Is Like a Butterfly” instead of her most popular tunes like “I Will Always Love You” or “Jolene” because the song had never been covered.
“We hit it out of the park because, if for no other reason, it’s authentically genuine, and that is the goal of this record,” she said.
In “On the Road Again,” her duet with Willie Nelson, she slowed down the up-tempo tune because the song’s meaning held a heavy combination of bittersweet feelings for her. Therefore, horns can be heard throughout the song, creating a somewhat sullen effect.
“When you go on the road, you love it because you’re so excited,” she said. “But you’re leaving your family. In a way, it’s like this glorious funeral procession each direction.”
Unlike many tribute albums where the honoree is not featured, Carter’s father can be heard playing throughout most of The Chain. Guitar solos, as well as her father’s signature lick in Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer,” are also highlighted.
“People have loved him and not known that they’ve loved him,” she said of her father as her eyes welled with tears. “It was really moving. Having him in the studio is something that I know I won’t have forever.”
Furthermore, Carter decided to pair up with other artists whose fathers also contributed to some of America’s favorite music. Waylon Jennings’ son, Shooter, is featured on “Good Hearted Woman,” and Paul Simon’s son, Harper, performs on a remake of the Simon & Garfunkel classic, “The Boxer.”
“We’re all children of these prodigies, and we have big shoes to fill,” she said. “You just feel kindred with these people because of the respect and experience of the past and our parents.”
Moreover, Carter said she’s proud of her finished product — her fifth album. Her first album, Did I Shave for This?, shot to the top of the country music charts in 1996 with singles such as “Strawberry Wine” and “We Danced Anyway.” Since then, Carter has received little airplay for her other singles, but she remains optimistic for her new album.
“I would say I’m way more seasoned, obviously, but I feel the same goodwill and excitement that I did before the first one,” she said. “I just feel like I have this great little secret, and I cannot wait for the world to hear it.”