I often have trouble with tribute concerts, concerts where a collection of performers gather to perform the music of one specific musician. It's been my experience people far too often get caught up in the event and the iconography of the person being honoured and forget about the reason they're honouring him or her: the music the songwriter created. The larger and more significant a figure it is being celebrated the larger the likelihood is of this happening. So it was with some trepidation that I started to watch the DVD of We Walk The Line: A Celebration Of The Music Of Johnny Cash, being released August 7, 2012 by Legacy Recordings, as there's probably no bigger icon in American music than Johnny Cash.
Since Cash's death, there have been a number of tribute albums released and any number of people have taken to covering his music. While there have been some amazing versions of his songs, everything from punk (All Aboard: A Tribute To Johnny Cash, which is one of the best), to hip hop (Johnny Cash Remixed), they've not been able to capture the entire essence of the man and his music and why it appealed to such a cross section of society. To be honest, the only reason I even bothered to check out this latest effort was because I read that Don Was was musical director and had helped put together the lineup. I've been impressed with events similar to this one that Was has been involved with, so I thought it would be worth taking a chance on.
The concert, which took place back in April 2012 in Austin, Texas, was the kickoff to this year's celebrations in honour of what would have been Cash's 80th birthday. Over the past couple of years Legacy Recordings, in conjunction with the Cash family, have been releasing collections of Cash recordings that have been laying around in vaults for years. As their contribution to the birthday proceedings, not only are they releasing this DVD+CD set, but the same day will also see the release of four other CDs of Cash's music, each celebrating a different aspect of his musical character, including gospel, country, and a duets release—they will give you a clue as to how it was always impossible to pigeon hole Cash, even when you divided his music up by genre or style.