Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Johnny Cash ~ Murder

I’ve been listening to a lot of blues and country music lately. Real country, mind you, not that soulless shit that Nashville’s been spewing out. Although Johnny Cash is always a favorite around these parts, he’s been on heavy rotation lately. But what can you say about Johnny Cash that hasn’t already been said a million times? He’s a living legend, a voice for the working classes, and a storyteller of the highest order. Elvis may be the King to most, but Mr. Cash is truly America’s finest singer/songwriter ever. Murder is a collection of 16 previously released songs that chronicle the lives of killers, thieves, assassins, and other miscreants. A lot of the songs will be familiar, like “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Delia’s Gone,” “Orleans Parish Prison,” and “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town.” But there are less-familiar tunes also included, such as “The Sound of Laughter,” which was previously unreleased in the U.S., “Hardin Wouldn’t Run,” and “When It’s Springtime in Alaska (It’s Forty Below).” Although it’s difficult for me to pick favorites, I’d have to go with the eerie “The Long Black Veil” and Mr. Cash’s incredible cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Highway Patrolman.” Springsteen’s original version, from his album Nebraska (which I hope to write about soon), is extraordinary and haunting in its own right, but Mr. Cash’s more orchestrated version adds a layer of emotional depth that is hard to argue with. It’s all in the voice, I guess. Murder is available on its own or as part of a three CD box set entitled Love, God, Murder. As with this disc, the other two are also thematic.

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