Dressed in Black - A Tribute to Johnny Cash CD (2002)

Artist: Various Artists

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In a year that's seen the reissue of so many original Cash LPs, one might wonder what need there is for a tribute album. The answer, as unwound on this album, is obvious: the impact of Cash's music far exceeds his own recordings, having become an essential element of American music. These eighteen covers illuminate both Cash's original legacy -- his songs -- as well as the influence he's had on several generations of musicians. ¶ Like any such various artist compilation, the results are uneven. But unlike many such collections, this one's high-points are exceptionally high, and the remaining cuts are still intriguing. Among the highlights is the opening triple-threat of Hank Williams III, Robbie Fulks, and Rodney Crowell. Others impressive reworkings include those from Rev. Horton Heat, Billy Burnette and Chris Knight. ¶ Hank III's remake of "Wreck of the Old '97" weds the wail of his grand-dad with the locomotive energy of Cash. Williams' and Chuck Mead's guitars push the rhythm that's laid down by bassist Dave Roe and drummer W.S. Holland, and Col. J.D. Wilkes' harmonica screams like a runaway train. ¶ Fulks attacks "Cry, Cry, Cry" with an urgency that even Cash's original (his first single for Sun) didn't register, and Rodney Crowell makes hay from one of the lightest-weight tunes in the Cash catalog, Jack Clement's "Ballad of a Teenage Queen." Though "Ballad" was a #1 country hit for Cash in 1958, Clement's production, especially the chorus and soprano backing vocals, always seemed like mismatch for Cash's presence. Not so with Crowell's take - the cleaner lines of the ringing guitar, the smoothly mixed backing vocals and the narrative lead vocal polishes the song into a true gem. ¶ Rev. Horton Heat infuses his rockabilly mania into "Get Rhythm," while still retaining the essence of Cash's original version. Similarly, Billy Burnette modernizes "Ring of Fire" without losing its soul; the song's loping tempo and iconic guitar hook are lovingly rendered as sacred text. Chris Knight sings Cash's "Flesh and Blood" as his own, rendering it in the spare, acoustic style that's become his trademark. Stripped of the strings and female backing chorus of Cash's 1970 original, the imagery of nature is ever more potent. ¶ A pair of duets recount the combined success of Cash and June Carter. Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis' rendition of "Pack Up Your Sorrows" hints at the Cash/Carter version with it's click-clack train rhythm, but their softer, polished voices more closely follow the song's originators, Richard & Mimi Farina. Mandy Barnett and Chuck Mead's "Jackson" can't possibly match the bristling interpersonal spark of the original, but it fully captures the songs swaggering repartee, and, unlike Nancy Sinatra, Barnett (singing the hell out of the song) gets the lyric "And I'll be waitin' in Jackson, behind my Ja-pan fan" right! ¶ As noted at the top, a world in which Cash's originals are readily available still needs these covers, if only to remind us that Cash's songs -- those he's written, and those he's simply made his own -- are as iconic as his performances.

-redtunictroll@hotmail.com quote

Some incredible Cash covers

by redtunictroll@hotmail.com on 9/13/2002

In a year that's seen the reissue of so many original Cash LPs, one might wonder what need there is for a tribute album. The answer, as unwound on this album, is obvious: the impact of Cash's music far exceeds his own recordings, having become an essential element of American music. These eighteen covers illuminate both Cash's original legacy -- his songs -- as well as the influence he's had on several generations of musicians. ¶ Like any such various artist compilation, the results are uneven. But unlike many such collections, this one's high-points are exceptionally high, and the remaining cuts are still intriguing. Among the highlights is the opening triple-threat of Hank Williams III, Robbie Fulks, and Rodney Crowell. Others impressive reworkings include those from Rev. Horton Heat, Billy Burnette and Chris Knight. ¶ Hank III's remake of "Wreck of the Old '97" weds the wail of his grand-dad with the locomotive energy of Cash. Williams' and Chuck Mead's guitars push the rhythm that's laid down by bassist Dave Roe and drummer W.S. Holland, and Col. J.D. Wilkes' harmonica screams like a runaway train. ¶ Fulks attacks "Cry, Cry, Cry" with an urgency that even Cash's original (his first single for Sun) didn't register, and Rodney Crowell makes hay from one of the lightest-weight tunes in the Cash catalog, Jack Clement's "Ballad of a Teenage Queen." Though "Ballad" was a #1 country hit for Cash in 1958, Clement's production, especially the chorus and soprano backing vocals, always seemed like mismatch for Cash's presence. Not so with Crowell's take - the cleaner lines of the ringing guitar, the smoothly mixed backing vocals and the narrative lead vocal polishes the song into a true gem. ¶ Rev. Horton Heat infuses his rockabilly mania into "Get Rhythm," while still retaining the essence of Cash's original version. Similarly, Billy Burnette modernizes "Ring of Fire" without losing its soul; the song's loping tempo and iconic guitar hook are lovingly rendered as sacred text. Chris Knight sings Cash's "Flesh and Blood" as his own, rendering it in the spare, acoustic style that's become his trademark. Stripped of the strings and female backing chorus of Cash's 1970 original, the imagery of nature is ever more potent. ¶ A pair of duets recount the combined success of Cash and June Carter. Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis' rendition of "Pack Up Your Sorrows" hints at the Cash/Carter version with it's click-clack train rhythm, but their softer, polished voices more closely follow the song's originators, Richard & Mimi Farina. Mandy Barnett and Chuck Mead's "Jackson" can't possibly match the bristling interpersonal spark of the original, but it fully captures the songs swaggering repartee, and, unlike Nancy Sinatra, Barnett (singing the hell out of the song) gets the lyric "And I'll be waitin' in Jackson, behind my Ja-pan fan" right! ¶ As noted at the top, a world in which Cash's originals are readily available still needs these covers, if only to remind us that Cash's songs -- those he's written, and those he's simply made his own -- are as iconic as his performances. Read More

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Product Overview

Specifications

Label Razor And Tie Records
SKU 60568003
UPC 803020112728
UPC 14 00803020112728
Format CD
Release Date 9/17/2002
Links
Author Various Artists
Technical Info
CatalogID 01127
Lable Name Dualtone Music
Released 09/17/2002
Original Release 2002
Number of Discs 1
SPARE Code n/a
Mono/Stereo Stereo
Studio/Live Studio
UPC 00803020112728
Album Notes and Credits
Compilation producers: Dave Roe, Chuck Mead.
Few artists deserve tribute more than Johnny Cash, and none pose a greater challenge to those who would offer their homage. The problem is that his sound has been pounded so deep into America's soul that it's almost impossible to play his music without lapsing into imitation -- and those who try to avoid that trap can sound a little misguided. Examples of both approaches abound throughout Dressed in Black, though even the bravest performers generally sing to a tack bass rhythm accompanied by those menacing low guitar licks that Cash patented long ago. Some do a pretty good job of evoking Cash, especially James Intveld, whose rendition of "Folsom Prison Blues" comes darn close to the original, and Chuck Mead on "There You Go." Damon Bramblett also has Cash's phrasing down; the fact that his voice is pitched about an octave higher, along with his Maybelle Carter style on guitar, makes "I'm Gonna Sit on the Porch and Pick On My Old Guitar" a special treat. Then there's Billy Burnette, whose playing comes closest to the essence of Cash but whose vocals completely miss the squint-eyed macho quality that "Ring of Fire" requires. Rarest of all are those artists who have found their own voice yet use this format to acknowledge their forebears; none does this more persuasively than Dale Watson, who turns "I Walk the Line" into something both powerful and original -- the ultimate tribute that anyone can pay to the real icons in this business. ~ Robert L. Doerschuk
Professional Reviews
Entertainment Weekly (9/27/02, p.86) - "...Chugs along on Cash's signature chika-boom groove....A spiritied heartfelt bow to an American giant..." - Rating: B
Disc 1
1 Wreck Of The Old '97 - Hank Williams III
2 Cry, Cry, Cry - Robbie Fulks
3 Ballad Of A Teenage Queen - Rodney Crowell
4 I Guess Things Happen That Way - Raul Malo
5 There You Go - Chuck Mead
6 Get Rhythm - Reverend Horton Heat
7 Pack Up Your Sorrows - Kelly Willis/Bruce Robison
8 Ring Of Fire - Billy Burnette
9 Luther Played The Boogie - Redd Volkaert
10 Big River - Rosie Flores
11 Folsom Prison Blues - James Intveld
12 I Still Miss Someone - Earl P. Ball
13 I'm Gonna Sit On The Porch And Pick On My Old Guitar - Damon Bramblett
14 I Walk The Line - Dale Watson
15 Train Of Love - Kenny Vaughn
16 Straight A's In Love - Eddie Angel
17 Jackson - Mandy Barnett/Chuck Mead
18 Flesh & Blood - Chris Knight
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Some incredible Cash covers by redtunictroll@hotmail.com on Sep 13, 2002

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