June Carter Cash's 'Wildwood Flower'

A Final Recording Reaches Back to Carter Family Classics

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Listen: <b>Web Extra:</b> Hear Bob Edwards' extended interview with John Carter Cash.

Listen: <b>Web Extra:</b> The late Johnny Cash discusses the significance of the recording locations for the 'Wildwood Flower' album.

'Wildwood Flower'; Cover painting by Marc Burckhardt

Wildwood Flower, June Carter Cash's final recording. Cover painting by Marc Burckhardt hide caption

toggle caption Cover painting by Marc Burckhardt
June Carter Cash, playing autoharp

June Carter Cash, playing autoharp in 2002. Ron Keith hide caption

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She was country music royalty, but June Carter Cash never left her Appalachian roots far behind. In her final recording, Wildwood Flower, she reached back to those roots by including several classics written by A.P. Carter and other members of her legendary country music family. NPR's Bob Edwards talks to her son, John Carter Cash, about the album, which he helped record just before her death in May.

As was the case with the original Carter Family beginning in the 1920s, and later permutations that included Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters (June, Helen and Anita), the Wildwood Flower recording sessions were very much a family affair. Participants included husband Johnny Cash — who died earlier this month — as well as June's cousins, nieces, son, daughter, stepdaughter and daughter-in-law.

"This recording, about half of it was done at the old Carter Family homestead in Maces Springs, Va." John Carter Cash says. "We just set up microphones in that living room. Felt enchanted and overwhelmed, sort of, by the living history that was around us."

June Carter Cash chose to record several traditional Carter Family songs for Wildwood Flower. They included the classics "Keep on the Sunny Side," "Storms Are On The Ocean," "Cannonball Blues" and "Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?"

"The spirits in that house doing those recordings... you got a feeling like you're repeating something that had been done a long time ago," John Carter Cash says.

He co-produced Press On, June Carter Cash's previous solo album, released in 1999, and was the producer of Wildwood Flower. Producing albums for his mother might sound intimidating, but that was hardly the case, he says. "She was very open-minded and eager and excited. My job was more just capturing what happened."

"After she passed, it became even more apparent what a loving and forgiving person that she was. And those are qualities that you don't see as much today."

Wildwood Flower ends with the title song. "It seemed like the right way to end the record," John Carter Cash says. "That's who she was, and the music just keeps going just like her spirit does."

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