In 1995, when Deana Carter learned that her debut album, Did I Shave My Legs for This? might be shelved in the wake of changing personnel at her label, Capitol, the singer-songwriter called her father in tears. Fred Carter Jr., the noted session guitarist, told his daughter to relish the bad times because when her album finally hit, it would be tenfold more joyful.
Finally released in ’96, Did I Shave sold 4 million copies and established Carter as a star. Now her confident follow-up, Everything’s Gonna Be Alright, marks the full unveiling of an artist.
While ”Strawberry Wine,” an envelope-pushing single about sexual initiation, made her debut an album to remember, overall, the record had a pieced-together feel reflecting a lack of involvement with some of the material.
In contrast, the new album, which Carter coproduced, is an artistic leap forward. A cohesive blend of L.A. pop and progressive country, with a steel guitar underscoring Carter’s Southern drawl, the CD explores connections missed and made, from the hormone storm of ”You Still Shake Me” to the smoky Bobbi Gentry-does-West Hollywood feel of ”Never Comin’ Down.” Carter co-wrote 5 of the 13 tracks, and generally makes good choices in her outside material. If she errs by adding a kids’ choir on ”Angels Working Overtime,” she scores by including the sweet blues of the title cut, a song of strength and hope written by her father in 1971.
Carter’s one-beer-too-many vocals and ditsy hippie persona have, in the past, obscured her smarts. But her intelligent writing and production make it clear: Hers was no accidental stardom. Fathers really do know best sometimes. B+