Buddy Miller, who was also lead guitarist for the "house" band (Don Was on bass, Greg Leisz on steel guitar and mandolin, Kenny Aronoff on drums and Ian McLagan on keyboards) rocked the house with his version of "Hey Porter". Shelby Lynne was stellar singing Kristofferson's "Why Me Lord", while Rhett Miller, lead singer of the Old 97's, tore the stage up with his version of, what else, "Wreck of the Old '97". Ronnie Dunn brought out the trumpet section from a Mariachi Band for his version of "Ring of Fire", and Lucinda Williams broke everyone's hearts with her rendition of "Hurt".
Nearly every one of the 20 tracks on the disc are worth mentioning, but there are a few more which stood out in particular. Putting the Carolina Chocolate Drops on stage was a beautiful move by the show's organizers, as it not only reminded people of the African American roots of so much of Cash's music, it also showcased one of the best string bands in America today. If their version of "Jackson" and leading the ensemble in a gospel-style version of "I Walk the Line" to close the night doesn't have people scrambling to buy their records, there's no justice in the world. Yet for all the youthful exuberance on display it was still the two old guys, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson, who stole the show. Maybe it's because they represented a tangible connection to Cash through so many years of associating the three of them together that made the heart swell listening to them perform, but it was also just great to see them on stage again.
Kristofferson first joined Jamey Johnson for a rendition of his "Sunday Morning Coming Down" and then he sang "Big River". Kristofferson's voice hasn't weathered the years that well, but for all its current limitations, there's still something wonderful about listening to him growl his way through anything. On the other hand, Nelson's voice seems to be becoming more and more velvety as he ages. First, he performed "If I Were a Carpenter" with Sheryl Crow, then "The Highwayman" with Shooter Jennings, Kristofferson and Johnson. Finally, as a special feature on the DVD but included on the CD, he performed "I Still Miss Someone", where he sounded even more effortless then ever. It's like he just opens his mouth and liquid gold rolls out as a balm to ease your wounded soul.