Book Review: The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song

Written by October 11th, 2012 at 11:34 am

The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song
Frank M. Young and David Lasky
Abrams

Between 1927 and 1944, the A.P., Maybelle, and Sara Carter made hundreds of recordings and sold millions of records, catapulting them into country music superstardom. Their recordings of “Keep on the Sunny Side” and “Can the Circle Be Unbroken” have become iconic songs in the country canon, and everyone who’s picked up a guitar has tried to imitate Maybelle’s virtuoso licks in “Wildwood Flower.”

Country music royalty meets the comics in this humorous and entertaining graphic novel. While the Carter Family story is a familiar and often told one, Lasky’s smart drawings and Young’s crisp retelling bring this tale of success and failure, poverty and wealth, and creativity and business to new life.

Early in his life, as much as A.P. loved the religious songs his family sang, he also loved the fiddle, which his parents’ considered the devil’s instrument. He saved up enough money from his job selling fruit trees—in the graphic novel, the apple tree that he plants near Sara’s home grows strong with the family, bearing fruit and serving as a symbol for the sweet music that would grow and nourish the family—to buy a fiddle of his own. When A.P. meets Sara, her beautiful voice entrances him; she also plays autoharp, and her sister, Maybelle, plays the thumb-brush style that made her playing so distinctive. Soon, the trio is playing at local churches, and, in 1927, they travel to Bristol, Virginia, where they meet the famous record producer, Ralph Peer, who also produced Jimmie Rodgers. A.P. traveled around collecting songs from the region, preserving and adapting them for the Carter Family to record. A final page depicting June Carter and Johnny Cash brings the story full circle.

Affectionate and admiring, The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song captures the family’s rise to success through numerous struggles as well as the enduring power of music and love. The book includes a bonus CD of 11 rare Carter Family radio recordings.

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