Thursday, February 23, 2006

Johnny Cash Revisited

I mentioned in a post last month that my friend Shiba in Yonago asked me to help her out with making a display for the "Walk The Line" soundtrack. As far as all things Cash go in Shimane/Tottori, apparently I am the "go-to guy". She asked me to recommend some of his albums to add to the display.

I did.

Well, the display is done. I'm working on getting her to send me some bigger pictures of the display, but this one will have to do for now.

Damn that looks good.

I took into consideration the fact that your average Japanese music listener has very little idea what country music is, much less good country music, much less who Johnny Cash is. So I chose these albums to try and give a fairly wide representation of his career through relatively inexpensive purchases. My recommendations for the display were as follows:

At Folsom Prison
Since the display is for the "Walk The Line" soundtrack, I figured the live album of Johnny Cash's performance at Folsom Prison, which is featured in the movie, would be a good one to include. Plus, it's just really cool to hear him playing in front of a bunch of a prison...a prison that he wrote one of his most famous songs about.

Ride This Train
This is not an album about trains. This is an album about America. This concept album is extremely well done. The narration starts with "Ride this train to..." and Johnny Cash proceeds to take the listeners around the U.S., singing songs (almost small vignettes) about life in the smaller parts of the country. I figured this album would be a good way for Japanese listeners to understand what it is about Johnny Cash that makes him such an American icon. He sings about and understands America.

Sings The Ballads of the True West
Another concept album about America, recorded in the midst of his drug addiction. You can see the effects of the addiction on him from the album cover, and you can hear how he's starting to become a bit unstable in songs like "Sam Hall". The strange sounds he makes suits the character in the song, but it does make you wonder. It is good as an album and good as a study of what drugs can do to somebody.

The Essential Johnny Cash
The name really says it all. Two discs with all the hits, and some pretty cool collaborations as well. Duets with Bob Dylan, June Carter Cash, Waylon Jennings. A track by The Highwaymen (Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson). A collaboration with U2, which U2 lead singer Bono calls "the best U2 song we've ever done, and I don't even sing on it." A great overview of his pre-American Recordings career.

Love, God, Murder (Box Set)
A collection edited and chosen by The Man In Black himself, this set is less a "Best Of..." and more of a view of an entire career through the three most prevalent themes in his music: Love, God, and Murder. There are some familiar tracks in this set, but there are also some less-well-known songs.

This is my favorite album of the four releases that Johnny Cash put out through Rick Rubin's American Recordings label. While all four albums are incredible and have some amazing performances, this one features him at his strongest. Backed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the songs on this album have a fast, energetic beat (except for the ballads, where things get slowed down). His cover of Soundgarden's "Rusty Cage" is what got me interested in his music in the first place. Plus, on "I've Been Everywhere" the album's closing track, he says he's been to Ellensburg. Hey, so have I.

My Mother's Hymn Book
This is the last album that Johnny Cash ever recorded. It is included in the incredible five-disc "Unearthed" collection, but you can also find it as a single album. It is a collection of hymns that were his mother's favorites. In "Walk The Line", his mother hands the book of hymns to him before he heads off into military service. There is a power in his voice that had been lacking in previous albums. In "Solitary Man" and "The Man Comes Around", you could hear the weakness creeping into his voice, but that is gone here. It's a man and his guitar singing simply and plainly about his faith. It will bring tears to your eyes.

There you have it. When I get those pictures from Shiba, I'll make sure I post them.


Blogger Megan said...

Dustin, I think you and I will get along fabulously.

Sunday, February 26, 2006 1:09:00 AM  

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