Carlene Carter spent much of her recording career waging a good-natured war between her rock & roll instincts and her country breeding before she signed with Reprise Records in 1989.
With I Fell in Love, her first album for Reprise, Carter's music suggested she was finally willing to play ball with Nashville...but only just.
I Fell in Love was a more polished set than Carter had recorded up to that time, and sounded like her version of a mainstream country record.
But beneath the smooth veneer, Carter's spunky attitude still shines through, and here she claims a thoroughly enjoyable middle ground between Music City traditionalism and roughhouse honky tonk rock.
With Tom Petty bassist Howie Epstein in as producer, I Fell in Love boasts a savvy studio sound and a legion of top-shelf pickers (including Albert Lee and James Burton on guitars and Benmont Tench on keyboards), but Carter lights a fire under nearly every tune on this set, and even the low-key love songs generate some sparks.
I Fell in Love may have been an effort to play nice on Carter's part, but it doesn't sound like a compromise so much as proof she was enough of a talent to have her cake and eat it too.
And in this case, the cake is pretty tasty stuff.