Even More Cash

This Friday there will be another chance to hear that 2 hour Johnny Cashspecial broadcast earlier in the year to celebrate the release
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.
Also… on Saturday night/Sunday morning I’ll be sitting in again for Bob Harris on BBC Radio 2. The special guest will be Philip
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.
I’ll be playing new music by Jakob Dylan, The Dead Weather and Justin Townes Earle plus great stuff that’s been around for a few years
by The Pearlfishers, David Heavenor, The Strokes and Carlene Carter. It’s that kind of show!
I posted most of this up when we first re broadcast the show…but some of you may have missed it….
My little boy came into the room while I was writing this. Is that Johnny Cash dad? I asked him what he knew and he told me that a friend in his class and he had been discussing music they loved. They both loved \’Ain\’t No Grave.\’ Believe me when I tell you that this has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the man we are about to salute.

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.

2 Comments

  1. September 22, 2010    

    I recall that Jonny Cash special well, but it’ll be good to revisit it. Looking forward to the Radio 2 show as well – last weekend’s was just superb!

    Not sure if you’re wanting to collect our feedback on “Walk the Line” just yet, but in case you do here are a few thoughts I wrote up on that…

    It had been a few years since I’d seen “Walk the Line” and it was even better than I remembered it. Both Joaquin Phoenix and deserved Oscar-winning Reese Witherspoon are just superb in this finely crafted film, which of course features some superlative music from Cash himself as well as all but a who’s who of his peers – not to mention an early glimpse at a fair few musicians from the generation that followed! I must make reference to Robert Patrick too, who provides excellent support as Ray Cash.

    Without wishing to dismiss “Coal Miner’s Daughter” – which I did enjoy – out of hand, I would highlight that there are similarities in the approach of both movies, as they seek to chart the lives of their protagonist through their formative years. But what “Walk the Line” does so well and for me much better is to examine Johnny Cash and what really made him tick: suffering a tragic loss in his childhood (an aspect that must surely have resonated with Joaquin Phoenix) and carrying the burden of guilt for it, seeking his father’s approval, and his abiding love for and striving to be with the love of his life, June Carter. Every scene from its inciting incident onwards, every sequence and pretty much every song relates to those themes in telling its story, and it is in the creative choices driven from this central understanding of who Johnny Cash was and what stood at the core of his being that the strength of the movie lies.

    The seminal scene of the movie is surely the family dinner at the lake house in which Johnny and his father discuss that sense of guilt and the need to hold his father’s approval and which leads to Cash crashing the tractor into the lake. June Carter’s mother tells her to go down to him as he’s mixed up, and when June at first refuses she tells her, “You already are down there, honey”. It’s a turning point that ultimately leads to an optimistic conclusion. I know the film came in for some flak for not being wholly true to its characters, but it’s a compelling storyline.

    This makes twice I’ve rented the movie and, as the credits rolled, I figured I may as well just buy it now as I am certain I’ll be wanting to watch it again soon! A great choice once again for the Another Country Movie Club and heartily recommended.

  2. September 22, 2010    

    I meant to comment too on your point regarding the opening scene, Ricky. You’re right, of course, and without giving any specifics away it’s a perfect piece of film-making as it foreshadows and encapsulates so much about the entire movie in a single moment.

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Welcome to my radio blog!

This blog relates to my two radio shows for BBC Radio Scotland. Ricky RossAll year round I present a weekly programme called Another Country which goes out every Friday evening at 8p.m. Seasonally I also present a Sunday Magazine called Sunday Mornings with Ricky Ross. You can find these shows at www.bbc.co.uk/radioscotland/

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