" 'Cause singing seems to help a troubled soul ..." - from Daddy Sang Bass.
(This is the first of four Johnny Cash reviews leading up to the release of this "Johnny Cash: The Legend" 4-CD box set on August 2.)
DISC 1 - The Legend: Win, Place And Show - The Hits (27 tracks, 72 minutes)
By Temple A. Stark, Casa Grande, Ariz.
How did you become a Johnny Cash fan? Your story is likely as interesting as any told by Mr. Cash. For many it just happens; a love at first sight happenstance:
Love is a burning thing. And it makes a fiery ring. Bound .. by wild desire, I fell into a ring of fire. I fell into a burning ring of fire. I went down down down and the flames went higher. And it burns burns burns .. the ring of fire ... the ring of fire."
"Ring of Fire" recorded in 1963 for his wife June Carter Cash can speak to how any one of us fell in love with Cash's music, though maybe not quite as initially illicit; they hooked up when both were married to others. He was never the self-professed "King Of Pop." He was the Man in Black, who understood terrible things and understood that a person without a sliver of hope is not complete and may never be again.
Any listener to this 104-song career collective can quickly take Johnny Cash for granted as it all seems so effortless. Yet Cash had a bass-baritone voice that no one else had. Like a Janis Joplin, he had a rare sincerity that overspilled and folded itself around every note. Unlike Joplin, he bested his demons and rode a wave of family and hope to a high and wide plateau of regard.
A hundred thousand words written to music he gave thought to over 50 years of performance. Both his life and his music reveal the power of redemption.
Storyteller Cash presents a cast of two-minute and three-minute characters at various stages of emotional undress; among them, that boy named Sue, the Matador, Ira Hayes, Kate, Rose, the one in the middle who drives a truck, the guy on his rear who said "Oh, dear" and the archetype of "Oney" a person who we all join against when Johnny delivers the big five-fingered retirement kiss off. "Hey Oneyyyy. Oneyyyy? Haha haa."
On this disc, I'm hearing versions of songs such as "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" that I haven't heard before - simple music, with guitar and few layers. On "Ira Hayes ..." in particular this is true, though the counter-tone of the Carter family women's chorus is nice; speaking as if in reproachment to the tale of strength and weakness that Cash narrates.