Dear Johnny…,” Hairball 8 Records’ tribute album to the late Johnny Cash, features a collection of covers guaranteed to make the legendary Man in Black proud.
Though there is no mention of the boy named Sue or the psychobilly Cadillac (a fictitious car that Cash sings about building over a 30 year period from GM assembly line parts), such hits as “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Long Black Veil,” and “I Walk the Line” are covered quite well.
The album art is concise and very much a testament to the modesty of Cash: It’s nothing more than the title on a completely black backdrop. It is schematic and complimentary to the legacy of scandal and redemption left behind by this musical genius.
Hairball 8 Records, which is the label for such fast-paced psychobilly talent as The Koffin Kats, has compiled songs that, surprisingly, focus more on the true nature of Johnny Cash’s music. These bands have certainly refrained from their signature standup bass-bashing techniques that their fans know them by.
If anything, “Dear Johnny…” makes an effort to tap into the bluegrass country side of Cash, rather than the rockabilly image that was laid upon him by newer bands seeking a refutable mentor.
Nonetheless, this is by no means a trendy musical shift. Those who really have an interest in psychobilly and rockabilly are equally as passionate about the roots of such music.
It is, of course, only the majority of songs that seek to replicate Cash’s style. The Creepers’ cover of the 1951 song “Wreck of the Old ’97” is anything but a resemblance of licks from the Southern Delta. This tune is a fast and hard train wreck of lyrics, plugged-in and raw.
Likewise, “I Got Stripes,” as covered by Satan’s Teardrops, is a country song on meth. The whole song is played with standard country chords on an acoustic guitar, but with an adrenaline-rush tempo.
Johnny Cash is one of the single most influential performers to all types of modern-day rock bands. Social Distortion has covered numerous Cash songs, as well as the Reverend Horton Heat, the Bouncing Souls, and others.
My pick of the litter would have to be “Peace in the Valley” by the Supersuckers. Eddie Spaghetti really nails the feeling of razor-edged sorrow that often rose out of Cash’s deep voice. This song is fully acoustic, slower than most of the songs, and completely immersed in despair. It’s definitely a mood setter.
I encourage all respectable patrons to do their duty to Cash and country (music), and go buy “Dear Johnny…” Some of the proceeds from this CD go to benefit SOS Children’s Villages, a charitable organization of which Cash was very favorable to.
For over 50 years, the SOS Children’s Villages has established permanent housing for abused and abandoned children in over 130 countries, including the US.
Remember Cash in spirit and remember Cash in action. Check out “Dear Johnny…” at your local music store. You’ll be helping desperate children around the world, and partaking in a dedication to one of the finest musicians of all time.