various artists,
Johnny's Blues: A Tribute to Johnny Cash
(Northern Blues, 2003)

In the year that the great Johnny Cash died we will no doubt get many tributes in print and song. This CD predates his demise and concentrates on the blues element of his output. In 13 tracks, this array of artists provides us with some excellent covers of his well-known -- and some of the more obscure -- offerings.

Opening with "Train of Love" by Paul Reddick and on to the closing by Mavis Staples' version of the perennial "Will the Circle be Unbroken," this is a prize CD. Cash has always been a difficult artist to pigeonhole. He covered country both old and new, folk, even pop music with "Sue." Here, this group of artists show us how easily he fits into the blues genre.

Chris Thomas King gives us a very good version of "Rock Island Line." Another Cash classic featured here is Garland Jeffries singing that great song "I Walk the Line." The use of the accordion is unusual but it works very well. Harry Manx reminds us of how much a blues song "Long Black Veil" really is and he gives it new meaning in his interpretation.

A song I had forgotten until I listened to this CD is "Frankie's Man Johnny." Sleepy Labeef does the honours on the track and as one of the older artists featured he actually knew Cash. Then, from a straight rendition of a Johnny Cash song, we move to a fabulous new interpretation of "Redemption" by Corey Harris. Another classic given a new treatment is Colin Linden on "Big River."

This is fitting tribute to one aspect of a man of many sides and a worthy addition to any collection of Cash or blues music.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 29 November 2003

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