Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Pusherman Prophet: Johnny Cash

One of my earliest musical memories was hearing Ring of Fire cracking out of my dad’s Rambler’s AM radio as we crossed the middle expanses of America in the early 60s. My dad took his religion seriously and still does. But he always had time for Johnny Cash. Several years later when we were back in India, he brought me a cassette of Johnny’s greatest hits from one of his foreign trips.  I thrilled to hear the mariachi trumpets of Ring of Fire once again, but also got my first introduction to Cash’s basic repertoire: Five Feet High and Rising, Ira Hayes, I Walk the Line and Were You There When They Crucified My Lord and of course, Folsom Prison Blues.

That Johnny sang heaps of gospel songs, many that my dad recognized from his own poor, rural American childhood, was no doubt what attracted him to the Man in Black. As for me, sure, I liked the gospel songs too, but not as much as his clackety clack railway train guitar rhythm style or his out of this world bass voice.  After, Ring of Fire, the only Johnny Cash song I knew was his duet with Bob Dylan, Girl From the North Country. The depths, both sonic and emotional, that Cash plumbs in that song are simply inspired.

Amazingly it was not till many years later that I began to understand what a true giant of American music Johnny Cash was.  His songs were so simple, a sort of musical amalgam of Hemingway and SteinbeckJohnny never left you in any doubt about  the point of his song.  Whether he was telling you about murdering for fun, and going crazy on cocaine or whether he was telling you how much he loved America yet couldn’t countenance the injustice America meted out to its natives, blacks or poor.

Kris Kristofferson wrote what is about the best and most beautiful summation of Cash in his song Pilgrim Chapter 33:
            He's a poet, he's a picker--
He's a prophet, he's a pusher--
He's a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he's stoned--
He's a walkin' contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction,
Takin' ev'ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home.

It is that walkin’ contradiction part of Johnny Cash that means more to me these days than even his voice.  A man who was equally believable and compelling when he was giving the finger to society as when he was on his knees calling on the love of Jesus.  Johnny Cash had a huge resurgence in popularity the last decade of this life.  Since his death I think his peers and fans and the critics have realized just how deep and wide is the hole he has left in American music and society. Always one of the Greats when he was living, in his passing he has ascended to the level of one of the very Greatest.

I hope you enjoy this collection of Johnny Cash faves from Washerman’s Dog. 

            Track Listing:
            01 Johnny Cash Show Intro And Theme 
02 Five Feet High And Rising
03 Guess Things Happen That Way
04 Get Rhythm
05 One
06 Closing Medley: Folsom Prison Blues/I Walk The Line/Ring Of Fire/The Rebel Johnny Yuma
07 Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)
08 Ragged Old Flag
09 Joshua Gone Barbados
10 One Piece At A Time [Album-Version]
11 Girl From the North Country (w Bob Dylan)
12 Have A Drink Of Water [Album Version]
13 The Man Comes Around
14 Jackson (With June Carter)
15 How Great Thou Art (Previously Unreleased)
16 Gospel Boogie (A Wonderful Time Up There)
17 We'll Meet Again
18 Over The Next Hill (We'll Be Home) [Album Version]
19 Hurt
20 Far Away Places
21 Big River [Demo]
22 There'll Be Peace In The Valley
23 Life's Railway To Heaven [Album Version]
24 Satisfied Mind
25 Folsom Prison Blues
26 Wide Open Road [Album Version]
27 Delia's Gone
28 The Old Account Was Settled Long Ago
29 Veteran's Day
30 Put The Sugar To Bed [Single Version]
31 When He Comes (w. Rosanne Cash)
32 I'm On Fire
33 I Walk The Line (w Bob Dylan)
34 Ring of Fire
35 Bird On A Wire
36 What On Earth (Will You Do For Heaven's Sake) [Album Version]
37 I Walk The Line [Early Demo]
38 Careless Love (w Bob Dylan)
39 Cocaine Blues
40 Highway Patrolman (Album Version)
41 Luther Played the Boogie
42 Long Black Veil

No comments: