BCB 100 - Johnny Cash

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geoffcowgill
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BCB 100 - Johnny Cash

Postby geoffcowgill » 07 Jul 2006, 16:53

The man is a great icon. I'm a bit dubious about the sustained quality of his music, though. There seems to be some unbearably artless earnestness in much of what he's done. That said, there is some remarkable stuff in his ouevre. Listening to the Folsom concert with the unexpurgated dialogue is legitimately riveting. And American III really sounds like the result of a bunch of us deciding what it would be cool for him to sing (and then the highlight of the album ends up being that pal-over-for-a-visit duet with Merle Haggard). As far as favorite song, that's really difficult for me to say. As slight as it is, I think I may get more enjoyment from "Get Rhythm" as anything else he's recorded. On the more somber side, there are some tracks on the new one, including "Like the 309", that I think are going to loom large in his legend, as someone once put it.

Favorite Album - American III: Solitary Man

Favorite Song - "Get Rhythm"

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Postby toomanyhatz » 07 Jul 2006, 19:12

Where do I begin?

OK, I'm not going to try to tell you that every note he recorded was golden, but who else had that long a career where most of it was spent staying true to his original vision? That said, I still like the early stuff the best. But not by too large a margin. He might be overrated as a singer (though I don't really think so), but he's drastically underrated as a lyricist. Not only was no one else- other than maybe Chuck Berry- writing such complete little short story songs- but he was already doing Dylan-level interior rhyming from the get-go.

Album - Any good Sun comp
Song - Train of Love
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Postby T. Berry Shuffle » 07 Jul 2006, 20:37

I think that it's safe to say that I've been listening to Johnny Cash longer than any single singer or group. I received a Johnny Cash 8 Trak for my third birthday which I'm certain must have been my first gift of music.

I believe that he's as important and influential as just about anybody in the history of country music and perhaps American music. The funny thing is that his musical style was more or less fully formed from the start of his recording career and yet never lost its immediacy.

I may be among the few who refrain from falling all over themselves feigning amazement of his American albums, which really are mostly poor due to the fucking inane song choices that Rubin made. I am convinced that Johnny could have written some amazing stuff on his own set to similar arrangements that would have outshone all that other pap. “Won’t Back Down”? There obviously wasn’t much quality control going on. But those albums, bad as they might be, don’t sully anything because they brought people to Johnny and most likely led them to the black lands by the river of song.

Fortunately his catalog is rich and diverse. Some truly amazing music was tended in the fertile soil of his mind, plowed by pen and guitar pick and distributed to listeners hungry for music that comes from and means something. It helped me out a few times when I needed it and convinced me that having a song in your heart was much more important than having one on the stereo. It has been a type of beacon, a signal that penetrates the storm when all the telephone lines are down and the news can’t get through. Johnny keeps the fires burning.

Despite knowing his music as well as I feel that I do, it’s not easy to write about. It’s like trying to write about the way my wife’s hair smells when I wake up close to her in the night. It’s the most beautiful thing but impossible to get to with words. Words are very poor ambassadors for the heart. I can reach into my feeling for Johnny’s music but it does as much good as trying to grab a hand full of water. It can’t be done but fortunately the water hasn’t run out.

I don’t know what my favorite song is. I don’t think that I have just one. I sung “I Walk the Line” from the stage of the Ryman when we were in Nashville, and it felt damned good.
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Postby The Fish » 07 Jul 2006, 21:52

I'm feeling and sharing your love for the man Jamie. I'd take issue over the American series though. Part of the appeal is the range and diversity (and even the apparent lack of quality control) in the song selection. I'm blown away hearing JC take this ragbag assortment of the good the bad the ugly and the downright done to death and cheesy and giving them new life and making then his own. His take on Solitary Man gets me every time. That's not to compare them to the Sun stuff for example, but at that stage of his life and in his health they are just about the best albums he could have made.


Album: Just about every damn thing
Track: Ditto
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Postby T. Berry Shuffle » 07 Jul 2006, 21:58

And I have to say that my respect for your taste deepened immensely when when were in Ernest Tubb's record shop and you were firing off the names of all the Bear Family boxes you own, not least of which all three Cash boxes. That just about makes up for your loving Steely Dan!
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Postby The Fish » 07 Jul 2006, 22:07

Hey get a room you two - oh hold on ome of them's me isn't it.

OK you get the room Jamie and I'll join you later. Don't forget to tell me the room number (yes I have seen The Graduate). You bring the booze. I'll bring the Bear Family box sets. Just don't tell Yomp. You know how jealous he gets.
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Postby Mychael » 07 Jul 2006, 22:27

T. Berry Shuffle wrote:...I believe that he's as important and influential as just about anybody in the history of country music and perhaps American music. The funny thing is that his musical style was more or less fully formed from the start of his recording career and yet never lost its immediacy.

I may be among the few who refrain from falling all over themselves feigning amazement of his American albums, which really are mostly poor due to the fucking inane song choices that Rubin made. I am convinced that Johnny could have written some amazing stuff on his own set to similar arrangements that would have outshone all that other pap. “Won’t Back Down”? There obviously wasn’t much quality control going on. But those albums, bad as they might be, don’t sully anything because they brought people to Johnny and most likely led them to the black lands by the river of song.

Fortunately his catalog is rich and diverse. Some truly amazing music was tended in the fertile soil of his mind, plowed by pen and guitar pick and distributed to listeners hungry for music that comes from and means something. It helped me out a few times when I needed it and convinced me that having a song in your heart was much more important than having one on the stereo. It has been a type of beacon, a signal that penetrates the storm when all the telephone lines are down and the news can’t get through. Johnny keeps the fires burning.

Despite knowing his music as well as I feel that I do, it’s not easy to write about. It’s like trying to write about the way my wife’s hair smells when I wake up close to her in the night. It’s the most beautiful thing but impossible to get to with words. Words are very poor ambassadors for the heart. I can reach into my feeling for Johnny’s music but it does as much good as trying to grab a hand full of water. It can’t be done but fortunately the water hasn’t run out...


Nothing much to add from me.
I first became aware of him when German TV show "Beatclub" (in their wildest krautrock days in '69 or so) dedicated a whole 1-hour-episode to his show. Fantastic.
Years later when my uncle died I inherited his (complete) collection of Cash albums - about 150 vinyl LPs - filed them away and one by one listened to them...

Song: "I Still Miss Someone"
Album: "Live At Folsom Prison" (or - if you really want a weird choice - "The Holy Land")
Bear tracks, bear tracks comin' up to you: http://www.bearfamilyradio.com/index.php?lang=en

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Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 07 Jul 2006, 23:24

I can't believe I'm going to be the first person to pick "Folsom Prison Blues" as my favorite JC song, but what the hell. As a songwriter myself, I've chased the dream of writing a line as evocative as "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die" for years. And I'll be damned if the fact that its become an obvious choice will keep me from picking it now.

Of course Cash is a giant. His gospel material in particular amazes me. His love songs are among the greatest ever written. And he could write a rockabilly rave-up or Guthrie-esque folk song as well as anybody. The guy was country, and he was rock and roll, and he was gospel, and he was a folk troubadour down to his soul.

I'm taking At San Quentin as my favorite album (though I much prefer the expanded Columbia/Legacy version). There's nothing else quite like it. When he sings the song San Quentin, it's the most punk rock moment in rock and roll's history. Nothing the Sex Pistols ever did comes close.

Favorite Song: Folsom Prison Blues
Favorite Album: At San Quentin (Live)
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Postby king feeb » 08 Jul 2006, 02:15

Favorite song: "Ring Of Fire"

Favorite album: San Quentin

Yes, again Davey nails it. When Cash sings "San Quentin, I hate every inch of you" and all the inmates erupt in a thunderous roaring cheer, that is the essence of punk.
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Postby Shagger Dave » 08 Jul 2006, 03:24

T. Berry Shuffle wrote:And I have to say that my respect for your taste deepened immensely when when were in Ernest Tubb's record shop and you were firing off the names of all the Bear Family boxes you own, not least of which all three Cash boxes. That just about makes up for your loving Steely Dan!
No it doesn't.
He tries.

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Postby Shagger Dave » 08 Jul 2006, 03:28

You record as long as the Man In Black did and you're bound to have some clunkers in your catalog. Luckily his best stands so high you can forgive him for Chicken In Black.

Album- At Folsom Prison

Song- I Walk The Line

Having stated my fave song I will also give major props to his version of One off of American III. All of the Bono bombast is stripped away and it is just devistatingly done. Beautiful and heartbreaking.
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Postby Guy E » 08 Jul 2006, 04:14

The thing about Johnny Cash is that one can admire the man immensely, recognize his importance as a great American and not really like his music all that much.

Personally, I was very slow in coming around to his recordings and while I love the SUN-era, I'm not too crazy about the actual platters on Columbia and beyond.

But I admire the man immensely. I didn't get to see his television show too often - our single-b+w TV Yankee household wasn't particularly Cash-friendly - but when I did catch it, I was riveted; he was such a cool guy and was his "own man" to the bone. When I bought At Folsum Prison down at Walgreens it felt like a bold move, but it was too worldly for my teenaged mind; I remained an outsider until I picked-up a budget-line SUN comp in the 70's.

I don't think of him as a Country Artist any more than I consider Bob Dylan a Folk Singer. True, Johnny was from the South and there was a bit of a twang in his voice, but his vocal style was unique. He created a signature rockabilly sound every bit as powerful as Bo Diddley's Beat and then sretched the boundaries into folk, topical folk and folk-pop. There are no fiddles or steel guitars on his records... he occupied his own space and nobody dared invade it.

One of the greats... I wish I'd had a chance to see him perform.

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Postby king feeb » 08 Jul 2006, 04:34

Well, I guess this is as good of a time and place as any to tell my Johnny Cash story-

I grew up in West Virginia. When I was in High School (this would've been Spring of 1975 or 76), I was participating in a State Speech and Drama Tournament which was held in Wheeling, WV. We finished up a little early and my friend Brian and I decided to walk around in downtown Wheeling. We were walking in front of the WWVA radio studios and we heard loud music coming out of the side exit door, which was wide open. Being typical teenage dipshits, we just walked right on in- no one stopped us. There was a black curtain obscurring the view, but we could see feet onstage, shod in shiny boots. So, again being young, brash and somewhat stupid, we parted the curtains, walked through them... and found ourselves about four feet away from Johnny Cash and his band with the audience behind us (we were in some kind of orchestra pit). Johnny noticed us, grinned and kept right on rocking. It was actually the end of Cash's encore and we only got to hear three songs: "John Henry"(which we walked in on), "San Quentin" and an amazing version of "Ring Of Fire" which still remains my favorite Cash song.

When we got back to the hotel, Brian and I started a rumor that Johnny Cash was staying there. We had our classmates looking for him all night! :P
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Postby T. Berry Shuffle » 08 Jul 2006, 14:16

king feeb wrote:Well, I guess this is as good of a time and place as any to tell my Johnny Cash story-

I grew up in West Virginia. When I was in High School (this would've been Spring of 1975 or 76), I was participating in a State Speech and Drama Tournament which was held in Wheeling, WV. We finished up a little early and my friend Brian and I decided to walk around in downtown Wheeling. We were walking in front of the WWVA radio studios and we heard loud music coming out of the side exit door, which was wide open. Being typical teenage dipshits, we just walked right on in- no one stopped us. There was a black curtain obscurring the view, but we could see feet onstage, shod in shiny boots. So, again being young, brash and somewhat stupid, we parted the curtains, walked through them... and found ourselves about four feet away from Johnny Cash and his band with the audience behind us (we were in some kind of orchestra pit). Johnny noticed us, grinned and kept right on rocking. It was actually the end of Cash's encore and we only got to hear three songs: "John Henry"(which we walked in on), "San Quentin" and an amazing version of "Ring Of Fire" which still remains my favorite Cash song.

When we got back to the hotel, Brian and I started a rumor that Johnny Cash was staying there. We had our classmates looking for him all night! :P


That's a great fucking story Feeb! Having Johnny shoot you that grin for slipping in the stage door - that's cool.
You read that in a book, didn't you?!

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Postby sloopjohnc » 08 Jul 2006, 15:33

I can't say much more, except to say that as an amateur songwriter myself, his lyrics are as as honest and emotionally bare as any out there. Folsom Prison Blues, Cocaine Blues, Ring of Fire---are all wrung free of any pretense .

The obvious pretense, however, is that the songs are constructed in rhyme, but you always feel that Cash is giving you his last testament as if strapped to the electric chair.

More so than any Guns 'n Roses song, for example. Welcome to the Jungle, my ass.
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Postby Carlisle Wheeling » 08 Jul 2006, 23:26

Album: John R Cash

Song: Man In Black
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Postby Corporate whore » 09 Jul 2006, 09:45

'I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die'

Most song writers would give their right nad to have written something so simple and yet so evocotive.

Song: Falsome Prison Blues

Album: American III
Johnny Cash Live at Glastonbury (Bootleg) - because I was there!


Although I only have about 5 Cash Albums, so I don't consider this a very considered vote.
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Postby Bad Ambassador » 09 Jul 2006, 21:42

Without wishing to steer this too far off course, those of you with the Unearthed box set - is it worth picking up? What's the quality control like? I imagine the book is pretty special and while the cds get favourable reviews on a number of sites I thought it might be worth asking here too.

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Postby Nick » 10 Jul 2006, 13:05

Song - Goodnight Irene
Album - Live At San Quentin
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Postby nathan » 10 Jul 2006, 16:20

T. Berry Shuffle wrote:I may be among the few who refrain from falling all over themselves feigning amazement of his American albums, which really are mostly poor due to the fucking inane song choices that Rubin made.

I absolutely detest them and they have kind of put me off Johnny Cash but hopefully not for good. It's just annoying that the only Cash I hear on jukeboxes anymore are those atrocious pieces of shit. And I hear them all the time.

That said, I have heard most of his 50's and 60's output (after that I could really care less) and there are certainly a lot of gems to be found but sometimes all that boom-chicka-boom really gets on my nerves. I see a lot of praise here for his unwavering and consistent style but it's one of the main gripes I have with his music. I didn't grow up with his music and only came upon him about 15 years ago. But his music never hits me the way his other contemporaries music does. A lot of times I can't even figure out what the big deal is. A lot of his lyrics seem trite and shallow to me, and I could never figure out his obsession with trains. It actually creeps me out.

Favorite song: Cry Cry Cry