of American V1 Ain’t No Grave. Now since then there have been one or two other significant album releases by – Tom Jones, Willie Nelson
and most recently Robert Plant. Tom did some of the songs of Johnny and Willie and Robert too did one that Willie cut on Country Music.
Does it matter? No. But does it show the depth and depth of feeling behind some of these old Gospel gems? Yes.
Selway (better known as Radiohead’s drummer) who has brought out a elegaic and true folk album. Nick Drake is the obvious
reference point but fans of last years Josh Tillman album (like me) won’t be disappointed.
It seems that we’re finally getting round to something that’s been looming for a long while. On Friday we are going to spend the two hours that Radio Scotland has given us on Johnny Cash. I naively wondered what we’d do with the time a while back there. Then my producer, Richard asked me for a list of favourite JC tracks and I realised if we were both going to be happy we’d need to take over the airwaves for the whole evening…there’s a thought!
So for good or bad we have two hours in and around the music of Johnny Cash with tributes from friends of the programme as well as an exclusive long chat with Johnny’s only son, John Carter. The excuse (as if we needed one) is the release of American VI – Aint No Grave for which John Carter has acted as associate producer, but the reason is more fundamental. Johnny Cash was part of a huge dynasty of music which goes back to the very first recordings of what we now call country. That music was gospel and rythm and folk and blues and eventually rock ‘n’ roll. Johnny himself was one quarter of the most potent rock ‘n’ roll roster of all time and even now there will be arguments about which one of the Presley, Perkins, Lewis, Cash quartet was the greatest. I wouldn’t begin to try. Competition has no place in the arts for me. Let’s just be glad we have the recordings. And if you’re still not sure….try this
What is particular interesting in the case of Johnny is the fact that his career re ignited in the last years of his life. This wasn’t because he was suddenly on a cool label with a cool producer. It was because that producer decided to do what great producers do; allow the artist to shine through on his own merits. This might explain further.
The singer became the star and anything that got in the way of that voice and the story of these songs was quietly rubbed out. Johnn Cash himself had the idea of singing these songs in that stripped down fashion long before he’d ever met Rick Rubin.
Unfortunately he was then on a record label who’d long forgotten about why they’d signed him in the first place.
On Friday we will play music written and performed by Johnny Cash, music that inspired and influenced Johnny Cash and hear the voices of artists who continue to be influenced by the Man In Black. In my opinion that two hours is going to be worth our license fee alone.
Lest we forget too, Johnny’s life was never straight forward….
One last story. A couple of years ago I visited a boy in hospital. He was the same age as my 2nd eldest daughter. He’d been in hospital for months as he’d suffered a spinal injury paralysing his lower body and limiting the use of his hands. We chatted for a while then I explained I had to go. I was doing a radio programme that night. Was there any country music he might like? Yes, he said, Johnny Cash.