It was probably inevitable that Carlene Carter would crave a career in music.
The daughter of June Carter and country singer Carl Smith, and grandchild of Alvin Pleasant (“A.P.”) and Maybelle of the famous Carter Family, Carlene was surrounded by music and fame from the time she was in the womb.
As a child, she traveled and sang with her mother, grandmother, and aunts Helen and Anita, who performed and recorded as Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters. Her own career began in the late 1970s, but took root when the title track of her 1990 album, “I Fell in Love,” earned a Grammy nomination for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.
In 2003, Carter was swamped in sorrow by the deaths of June and her husband, Johnny Cash, and Carlene’s sister, Rosey. Carlene’s current CD, “Carter Girl,” pays tribute to three generations of her family’s music. The album presents well-known and obscure Carter Family songs: June’s “Tall Lover Man” and her aunt Helen’s “Poor Old Heartsick Me.” Carter also features her own “Me and the Wildwood Rose” and “Lonesome Valley 2003,” a eulogy to the passing of June and Johnny Cash.
While en route to a show in Connecticut, Carter, 58, shared memories of her family, discussed the new album and her participation in Farm Aid, which brings her to Walnut Creek Amphitheatre on Saturday.
I waited what I thought was a respectful amount of time after Mama passed. It felt really good and I felt closer to them. I made it through the whole record without crying. The last day I started crying because I was so thrilled with the outcome and that it was finally happening after almost two years of working toward it.
I thought my mama hung the moon, and I wanted to do what they did. That is my biggest memory. It’s like in my song, “Me and the Wildwood Rose”: If I could change a thing in the world, I’d go back to those days. Those were some of the happiest times I’ve had.