What is “real” country music? That’s a debate that will likely never be resolved in our lifetime. What we can agree on is that as the genre has evolved over the last century, with the current product sounding much different than its roots. On her latest solo project, Daddy’s Country Gold, singer/songwriter/upright bassist Melissa Carper transports us back to a time before rapping cowboys; before George Straight realized where all his exes lived; and even before Willie’s blue eyes were crying in the rain.
Carper reminds us that country music didn’t just materialize out of the ether as its own sound. Whether performing solo; in The Carper Family trio; with the award-winning Arkansas foursome, Sad Daddy; or with her girlfriend, Rebecca Patek, in the roots duo, Buffalo Gals, Carper has always paid homage to the traditional side of country music. This continues with Daddy’s Country Gold.
Lyrically, the album feels like a collection of Carper’s diary entries reflecting on personal moments—some intimate and passionate, some with a fond playfulness. Musically, you can tell that her parents’ record player spun the classics including Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and Johnny Cash. Combined, we get a distinctive sound that blends elements of Kitty Wells, Billie Holiday, Pokie La Farge, Loretta Lynn, and the aforementioned Williams. The head-nodding swing of album opener, “Makin’ Memories,” would feel right at home at an old-fashioned honky-tonk beer joint. Slower, blues and jazz influenced, “I Almost Forgot About You,” inspires thoughts of slow sipping a drink in a hazy country lounge while Carper croons in the spotlight. Twangy, fiddle-heavy, “Arkansas Hills,” and the lighthearted, “Would You Like to Get Some Goats,” feel like they came straight off my father’s VHS tapes of Hee Haw. Album closer, “The Stars Are Aligned,” is a timeless ballad that lets us fully appreciate Carper’s ability to reflect emotion through her vocals.
Daddy’s Country Gold is pure vintage country music, full of jazz, blues, and western swing influences. However, it isn’t a tribute album to a bygone era. Melissa Carper writes with a genuineness and sings with an authenticity that lets you know that these are her songs. It’s steeped in tradition, yet reflects Carper’s modern influences, creating an album that all generations of country music fans can appreciate.