The career of late singer June Carter Cash shadowed 20th-century pop music: It began in the '30s when she toured with her famous folk-singing family, continued through the '50s when she married country singer Carl Smith and became an Grand Ole Opry fixture, and culminated with her 1968 marriage to Johnny Cash, who frequently included his wife in his intuitive fusion of folk, country, rock, and gospel. June Carter Cash's final album, Wildwood Flower, is more a scrapbook of her final days than a proper collection of recorded music, but it's poignant and crafty in its casual portrait of a matriarch in repose. Most of the songs come from the Carter Family songbook, and are strung together by outtakes from old radio broadcasts and spoken-word introductions that sometimes ramble into impromptu reminiscences. Cash's voice sounds thin and frail, as does her husband's when he sings backup, but they take clear pleasure in singing old favorites with warm, spare, mostly acoustic backing. A lot of the tracks on Wildwood Flower have the quality of stories told in the parlor at a family reunion, with the guitars, fiddles, and loose percussion nodding along like cousins. June Carter Cash hums her way through standards like "Church In The Wildwood" and "Cannonball Blues," letting the visions of vanishing pasts and uncertain futures hover pointedly. And the quaver in her voice as she sings "Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone" is moving, not just because she died shortly thereafter, but because she sounds a little scorned, as though she's unsure whether she's ever been properly appreciated. Of course, Cash didn't know she was weeks away from death when she recorded Wildwood Flower, but with her husband's health problems and with the increasing hostility in global politics, it's not surprising that the record sounds wizened and withdrawn. The affecting tone of yearning and regret places Wildwood Flower in the tradition of great country albums like The Everly Brothers' Roots and Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger, which look to traditionalism for comfort at a time of uncertainty.

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