Growing up, I have many memories of listening to music in the car while on trips. While it was sometimes the radio, or Christmas music around the holidays, I specifically remember listening to the Walk the Line soundtrack with my mom after she watched the movie. We would alternate between Johnny Cash’s deep, booming voice and Joaquin Phoenix’s well-executed covers of the Cash originals. This weekend, I watched Walk the Line for the first time and while I was impressed with the story of Johnny Cash, I was particularly struck by Reese Witherspoon and her portrayal of June Carter. June was a popular female singer, having gained fame from her early performances with the Carter Family. Her portrayal in the film is more focused on her relationship with Cash, but her talent as a singer is also notable. I decided to put together a list of my favorite June Carter songs, including some performed by Witherspoon in the movie.
5. “Juke Box Blues”
This song was one of the first I heard in the movie that really sparked my interest in June Carter. The song’s instrumentation is really simple, featuring drums, slide guitar, and brief moments of piano. However, June’s swing with her voice and lively personality drew my attention in a song with repetitive melodic lines.
4. “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”
June Carter first recorded her cover of this song in 1999 at age 70 on her album Press On. The song is just as simple in instrumentation as “Juke Box Blues”. Her version of this song is unique in her subtle vibrato, use of dynamic contrast at the end of each line, and her hints of swing between notes.
3. “Ring of Fire”
This song is most famously known as one of Johnny Cash’s greatest hits, but it was interesting to learn that June Carter actually wrote the song and recorded her own version. Her version changes the rhythms and uses more stereotypically “country” instruments, like fiddle and percussion instruments.
2. “Wildwood Flower”
This song reminds me a lot of “Juke Box Blues” in its repetition of the melodic line. Her pronunciation of the lyrics in the song helps to make it unique, like “flor” instead of “flower”. While the song is sad and could get monotonous, June Carter’s voice is upbeat and positive, implying that she has emotional strength to get through depressing times.
This song is definitely my favorite of June Carter’s, largely because it features Johnny Cash in a duet. Their chemistry is evident in this song, with hollers at each other during their individual features. In addition, the song is fun and upbeat, and the harmony between Cash’s deep sultry voice and Carter’s fun scooping soprano make the sound unique.