Carlene Carter opened her show at the Bayou last night with "Ring of Fire," a song written by June Carter, her mother, and made famous by Johnny Cash, her stepfather. She preserved the confessional quality of her parents' version, but she replaced their resigned fatalism with boisterous exuberance. She made it sound as if there were nothing better than to fall into passion's ring of fire.
Carlene Carter is the granddaughter of the original Carter Family, who were among the founders of country music. She is also the wife of British rocker Nick Lowe. She turned these odd family ties into a fascinating blend of country and rock romance. She took the folksy friendliness of a Loretta Lynn and added sex to it. She took the sexy chic of Blondie's Deborah Harry and added friendliness to it.
She began most songs with a sweet honky-tonk sing-song that established a cheerful melody.Then her voice would move further and further down her throat till it reached a guttural shout. This worked best on her own songs, which took old country themes and brought their hidden sexuality to the surface. Carter was backed by a solid British rock quartet led by guitarist Martin Belmont of the Rumour. During Belmont's solos, Carter would bounce and shake about in her skin-tight black leather pants and under her bundles of frosted hair.