The Carter Family Project
Fran Leadon and Leigh Anderson, authors, parents and mainstays of the Brooklyn bluegrass community, have embarked on a quixotic and lovely journey called The Carter Family Project that will result in home-made recordings of every song the Carter Family ever recorded. Why? A hoped-for flash of insight or personal discovery like those experienced by long-distance runners? An attempt to connect to the original sources of the music they play regularly around Brooklyn? The front porch as the authentic venue for the repertoire? Or simply something to do while the baby’s napping? Matters not. It’s a simple, joyous expression of a principal foundation of American music – and they’re opening the living room door to let us listen in.
While the site is sonically homespun (though it rewards listening with headphones or external speakers), the guests who pop up on the recordings represent some of the best Brooklyn players, including Jen Larsen singing, Diane Stockwell on fiddle, Charles Puckette on guitar and banjo, Ken Ficara on harmonica, and Charlie Shaw on snare.
The Carter Family Project also documents a musical life allowed to flourish alongside a growing family life. The baby won’t sleep so no recording that day (or a throaty wail intrudes on the opening verse). Food hits the floor and not the baby’s mouth. The batteries run out and hurricanes intrude. And while the Carter Family became more show biz than Appalachia not long after their 1927 debut, they were after all a family and one whose subsequent generations formed the bedrock of bluegrass and country music. A tribute from one musical family to another seems to amplify the sincerity.
For those near Brooklyn, Fran is appearing at Jalopy in Red Hook on October 11, playing a solo set as well as with The Williamsons, a duo with an eclectic repertoire – straight from the backwoods of Florida. According to Fran, “For YEARS I have been begging my friends Lon and Lis Williamson to leave their home on the shores of Gatorbone Lake in the deep woods of Florida and come up to Brooklyn to play. Now, FINALLY, they are throwing a guitar and bass into their pickup truck, leaving the dogs in charge, and driving up I-95 straight to Jalopy to play a gig with me.
“They are great singers and songwriters, both of them. We will alternate on stage, each playing two or three short sets. And I will probably sing some duets with Lis, as well. Joining me on my original songs will be Ben Fraker on telecaster, Tony DeLello on bass, and Nancy Polstein on drums.”
Now writing about and offering wine and spirits with side dishes of music and food at Lit from Bottlerocket. I’d sit down at the computer and fire up The Carter Family Project with a sip of Bulleit or the Hudson Four Grain Bourbon, just to keep it down home here in NYC.