“Of the hundreds of songs the Carters produced, only a small lot of them are performed or even recorded,” says acoustic crooner Tom Brosseau, whose album with Sean Watkins (Nickel Creek), In the Shadow of the Hill: Songs from the Carter Family Catalogue Vol. 1, drops August 24. “It takes the listener beyond the Carters’ greatest hits — ‘Keep on the Sunny Side,’ ‘Wildwood Flower,’ ‘Will the Circle Be Unbroken’ — to songs that are more obscure, but just as melodic, just as important.”
“The project differs from others in its category, in part because of the song curation. It’s the first to introduce the songs of Joe and Janette, the only children of A.P. and Sara Carter. Their music is relatively unknown and, sadly, mostly out-of-print, but their parents and aunt Maybelle passed the family songwriting and performing talents on to Joe and Janette.”
A native of North Dakota, Brosseau moved to San Diego in 2001 and became half of the American Folk Singers, alongside Gregory Page. His partnership with Sean Watkins includes his 2013 album Grass Punks, which Watkins produced, played on, and toured behind with Brosseau (that album includes a musical tribute to Brosseau’s previous collaborator, “Gregory Page of San Diego.”)
The seeds for the Carter Family tribute were planted in 2017 with the songs on his first official live album Treasures Untold, featuring six tracks from the Great American Folk Songbook (Carter Family, Elizabeth Cotten, Jimmie Rodgers, Rev. Gary Davis), along with four originals.
Brosseau just returned from a UK and European tour that kicked off in Amsterdam before moving through Germany, Spain, Portugal, and wrapping up in England. His upcoming west coast tour in support of the Carter album (which also features another local Nickel Creek player, Sean’s sister Sara Watkins, on violin and vocals) hits Old Templar’s Hall in Poway on October 11. San Diego folklorist Virginia Curtiss, whose late husband Lou ran Folk Art Records for nearly a half century, opens.
So does the world really need yet another Carter tribute album? “As a performer, I see the impact of a good song. One of my passions is finding old gems and bringing them to the surface. I have found many within the Carter catalogue and witness the power they hold, the joy they bring to others. Carter songs are the embodiment of humanity… songs that, when listened to and when performed, remind us that both good and bad times have happened before, and they’ll happen again.
“But, above all, the Carter Family songs remind us that we are not alone.”