The country songs were culled from a list of 100 Cash had considered essential for his daughter to be aware of. They include everything from "Long Black Veil" and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" to his version of "The Gambler" (which he released before Kenny Rogers). However, as far as I'm concerned it's the duets collection which is the most telling. Naturally it includes "Jackson" and "If I Were a Carpenter," which he and June Carter Cash were famous for singing together. Yet unlike what you'd expect from this type of compilation, they're not all love songs performed with a female vocalist. In fact, nine of the 14 tracks feature him singing with another man—everyone from Bob Dylan ("Girl from the North Country") to George Jones ("I Got Stripes").
Which is why anything less than even an attempt to reflect the idiosyncratic nature of Cash's musical tastes and his appreciation for all types of music would have made this celebration of his music a failure. My worst fear was it would turn out to be a gathering of Nashville types twanging their way through his music and sucking the life out of it by covering them with rhinestones and cheap sentimentality. Seeing that both Willie Nelson and Kris Kristoffersson were among the performers was a relief and the fact the African American string band, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, were also in the lineup was also a good sign. However, there were a number of names on the list I didn't recognize which still troubled me. However, I should have trusted my initial reaction to Was' involvement, because nearly each person involved went the extra distance to try and capture the essence of Cash's spirit.
Was and executive producer Keith Wortman compiled their ideal Cash set list, and each of the invited performers were asked to select the Cash song they'd like to perform. In the special features section, Wortman says he and Was were pleasantly surprised when they compared their list with the list of requests submitted by the performers and the two were almost identical.
With Cash's variety of musical styles, you need a diverse a group of performers like the ones who were gathered together in Austin that night to bring Cash's music to life properly. Highlights, at least for me, included "Get Rhythm", performed by pop singer Andy Grammer. He injected some much needed fun right from the start by doing hip hop-style vocals and percussion, and by so obviously enjoying himself.