Tuesday, May 24, 2005
We Are A Happy Family...
The Carter Family - John Hardy Was A Desperate Little Man
The Carters looked great. They may have walked into Ralph Peer's talent sessions in overalls, but once things started rolling for A.P, Sara and Maybelle, they took care to present themselves with precision. This in itself was not unusual in an age when having your photograph taken meant something.
Looking at the images now, it's impossible for them not to infuse the music with a haunting sense of people who are doing their damnedest to make things go their way. Opportunities were limited. There's a line from Coalminer's Daughter that nails it: "Coalmine, Moonshine or goodbye." Get out there and make it work, or you know what you'll go back to. How things haven't changed.
But there are other associations here. I can't help thinking about The Ramones and Kraftwerk, two other acts that understood how important it is to present a consistent image. This extends to the music: all are defined by their templates, ignoring or perhaps lacking the urge to change.
There's a beauty in this sheer devotion to a single path, which makes you wonder if it isn't all about making a choice and sticking with it because deep down you know the alternative is a chaos, with no image of the self and no defining voice. Or maybe they just nailed it.
Here's one from the monumental JSP 1927-1934 five disc collection. I reckon Joey and the boys could have knocked out a great version, don't you?
Buy - The Carter Family: 1927-1934
Visit - The Carter Family PBS Site