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Music Review: Hushabye Baby: Lullabye Renditions of Johnny Cash

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The Hushabye series continues the legacy of Johnny Cash with the album Hushabye Baby: Lullabye Renditions of Johnny Cash. The music of Johnny Cash is rough and tumble but the lullabies provided are soft and gentle. The slowing of the tempos take a bit of time to adjust to; it's music of Johnny Cash by way of James Taylor. It's creative and a different take of the man in black.

Right off the bat, the album starts off on a great foot. “I Walk the Line” instantly displays the charm and technique of the album. The multiple instruments for different verses (and in some cases different lines), the octave changes since Johnny Cash sang so low, and the horse trot in the background are all represented in the first track. The trotting horse tempo is even better represented in “Folsom Prison Blues” and I’m actually floored how well something like a metronome sound would fit in a lullaby.

I loved how “Ring of Fire” is handled. The tempo works well and the arrangement is pretty. The inclusion of chimes and autoharp makes me think that they threw the kitchen sink into the song. Even with the high number of instruments included in the one song, everything jives.

My favorite Johnny Cash song is “Daddy Sang Bass” and I believe the lullaby rendition is faithful to the original song. There is the lingering problem of the depressing nature of the song where everyone is going to die and meet “in the sky.” Nevertheless, I would still play the song.

There are a few weaknesses to the album. The xylophone shows it’s weakness in the album: it becomes a little flat when you hit the lower keys. Sometimes when Johnny Cash sang fast songs (especially “I’ve Been Everywhere”) and in a song like “Get Rhythm” the instruments have to cut a few of the notes to keep pace. In a handful of songs, including “Jackson” the bass seems too strong. I tested the CD in several speaker options (headphones, movie surround, stereo player, computer, and laptop) and in all cases it seemed too strong on just standard sound settings.

In comparison to the Hushabye: Patsy Cline album, this album is better suited to play in the background for a child. The tempos are faster and may actually be too energetic for kids to sleep to. If I had to section off the slower lullabies it would be: “Big River,” “Daddy Sang Bass,” “I Still Miss Someone,” “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” and “If I Were a Carpenter.”

There is something wrong and I can’t put my finger on letting babies listen to songs about prison, death, and repercussions, even if there are no words. I love that Johnny Cash sang about these topics and it became popular with the everyday man, but there is no way that parents can sing the actual lyrics to their baby as a lullaby. Don’t get me wrong, the music is wonderful and the arrangement is beautiful, but I would just warn parents ahead of time to either play this when kids can’t ask questions about what the song is about or explain it to them when they are a little older. Overall, this album is fun and would fit great if you want to play cowboys and Indians.

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About Michael Pascua