Carlene Carter, John Mellencamp exude artistic kinship

Share on

Mama knows best. Especially when Mama is the legendary June Carter Cash, and she’s telling you John Mellencamp is talent

Mama knows best. Especially when Mama is the legendary June Carter Cash, and she’s telling you John Mellencamp is talent worth respecting.

“Mom always spoke well of him, and that meant something,” Carlene Carter said from Nashville during a break from her tour with Mellencamp, which stops tomorrow at the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion.

Over the past few years, Carter has spent an increasing amount of time working with Indiana’s rock ’n’ roll hero. Now the pair have a new collaborative LP, “Sad Clowns & Hillbillies,” featuring vocals and a pair of tunes from Carter.

A longtime fan, Mellencamp wanted Carter’s voice to be part of his musical “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” which he wrote with Stephen King and toured the country in 2013. He loved her voice so much that, through their mutual manager, he signed her up as his opening act without even telling her.

“He just said to me, ‘Are you excited for next year?’ ” Carter said. “I am always excited for next year, so I said, ‘Yeah.’ But then I asked why. He said, ‘Well, you’ll be opening for me all year.’ ”

The pair felt an artistic kinship instantly.

“Two months into working each other, we came offstage one night, and he told me, ‘I think we should make a record together,’ ” she said.

The plan was to make a modern gospel record. They went through old hymn books, hoping to put lyrics over rock ’n’ roll, but after an initial push, the idea didn’t fire them up. They agreed to split up, write some tunes and come back together with their progress. The results continue to mine the Americana that Mellencamp has pioneered from “The Lonesome Jubilee” to “Plain Spoken,” but “Sad Clowns & Hillbillies” features a few fresh turns.

“I was told John wasn’t a lovey-dovey duet singer, but I brought ‘Indigo Sunset’ to him anyway,” Carter said. “After he finished it, it became more of a goodbye song, but it showed a whole different side of him.”

Carter’s influence has encouraged some of Mellencamp’s most curious instincts — “Indigo Sunset” lands somewhere between country and soul; another duet, “Sugar Hill Mountain,” stumbles around with a joyous, drunken Dixieland groove.

Carter would like to keep the collaboration going, but she’ll be busy for a while. This fall, she will devote time to writing her next solo record and work on a new Carter Family project. Pulling from the country dynasty’s history of songs, Carter and her siblings and cousins, including John Carter Cash, will record fresh material to mix with archived recordings.

“I can’t tell you too much because we have to have something to talk about next year when it comes out,” Carter said with a laugh. “As you can expect, there will be a lot of autoharp playing. Like I said, I am always excited for next year.”

John Mellencamp & Carlene Carter, with Lily & Madeleine, at the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, tomorrow. Tickets: $55-$310; livenation.com.

    Share on
    Article Carlene Carter, John Mellencamp exude artistic kinship compiled by www.bostonherald.com

    You might also like