With the unfortunate loss of one of the most influential musicians in the world you’re bound to see tribute albums pour out in the next few years. Some of those tributes will be artists who simply want to pay homage to an amazing man, friend, and musician; while others will simply seek to cash in on a monumental loss.
Johnny’s Blues isn’t an album that will see much radio play – most of the artists aren’t well known, and many of Cash’s most famous songs aren’t even included (Ring of Fire, Cocaine Blues, Boy Named Sue, etc). However what makes this album great is that the majority of the musicians seem to take Cash’s songs (and a few that he didn’t actually write…) and respectfully blend them with their own styles. There is no milking a tragedy here (in fact it was released shortly before Cash’s demise).
Here’s my rundown of the most memorable (good and bad) tracks:
Paul Reddick - Train of Love: Well, I’m a sucker for quality Dobro and Mr Reddick gives this song a wonderful southern blues feel. Very nice.
Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown with Benjy Davis - Get Rhythm: pretty much what you would expect from a guy named Gatemouth (that’s a compliment), and a guy named Benjy who looks he should be performing with Simple Plan (that wasn’t a compliment).
Chris Thomas King - Rock Island Line: Very nice rendition, plus his story about the song in the liner notes is an added bonus.
Garland Jeffreys - I Walk the Line: You walk it? The vocals are so weak that it’s more likely that the line was beat out of you.
Blackie & The Rodeo Kings - Folsom Prison Blues: Ok, these guys rule. Very much traditional country music mixed with neo-blues. You can almost feel their cowboy boots kicking the studio floor.
Harry Manx - Long Black Veil: This song alone is worthy of whatever this CD costs. Harry Manx gently lures you in with a sound that lies somewhere between James Taylor and Hamza El Din, then completely utilizes the sad lovestory with backing vocalists and his own wistfully alluring vocals. Amazing.
Sleepy LaBeef - Frankie’s Man Johnny: Aside from having the coolest name EVER, Sleepy performs in a traditional country style. Fans of Dwight Yoakum, Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams II, and Hank Williams III will heartily approve.
If you want to hear a tribute album that has a lot of quality content and isn’t full of big named artists who probably never heard Johnny Cash until he did Hurt, then you need this album.