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Bill Mitchell
Blues Bytes
June, 2003 

more reviews of Johnny's Blues: A Tribute to Johnny Cash
I normally despise these theme collections of blues artists performing non-blues songs from renowned musicians or bands, especially the various tribute CDs issued by Telarc over the past few years. Johnny's Blues - A Tribute To Johnny Cash (NorthernBlues Music) is different ... it's tasteful and well-done, and none of the artists sound like they're going through the motions merely to collect their paychecks. The CD contains 13 songs from the Man in Black's repertoire, done by both famous and more obscure artists, with nary a weak song to be found. Among my personal favorites is the excellent and underrated Canadian mulit-instrumentalist Harry Manx covering the country weeper "Long Black Veil," given a dark spiritual feel with the inclusion of backing vocalists who really DO sound like they just came from the graveyard. One of the more unique interpretations of a Cash standard is offered by bluesman Corey Harris on "Redemption," as he performs it with a heavy African beat, using traditional percussion instruments, and backed by several female singers. The disc keeps getting better when we get to Kevin Breit's bluesy mariachi version of "Send A Picture Of Mother." The value of this CD is justified by the appearance of elusive rocker Garland Jeffreys, who does a Cajun-ish version of "I Walk The Line," which is closer to the original than one would have expected from Jeffreys. Maria Muldaur takes "Walking The Blues" to the back porch, accompanied only by Del Rey's acoustic guitar. Rounding out the album are Paul Redddick (a spirited "Train of Love"), Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown ("Get Rhythm"), Chris Thomas King ("Rock Island Line"), Blackie & the Rodeo Kings (an alt-country version of "Folsom Prison Blues" that continually threatens to get out of control), Alvin Youngblood Hart ("Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down"), Sleepy LaBeef ("Frankie's Man Johnny"), Colin Linden ("Big River"), and Mavis Staples ("Will The Circle Be Unbroken"). The disc includes a nice booklet, with each artist penning heartfelt words of tribute to Cash. Now THIS is what a 'tribute' album should be all about.  

"The disc includes a nice booklet, with each artist penning heartfelt words of tribute to Cash."