Sunday, July 16, 2006
Written by Fantasma el Rey
“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash”. His standard opening is sadly missing from this entertaining live DVD, filmed in some television studio in Denmark. Yet that takes nothing away from this solid performance by one of the greatest talents the world has known. This show in Denmark and the crowd’s reaction only prove that Johnny was loved by people all over the world; that fact is made obvious by people today, who know nothing about classic country or the other outlaws that Johnny came to run with, yet who claim Johnny as their inspiration and hero. On this disk we get a good glimpse of the Johnny Cash road show, we also get a chance to see and hear many of the regulars of his weekly television show, which include his wife June Carter, his longtime friend Carl Perkins and the Statler brothers.
The disk jumps right into “A Boy Named Sue”. No intros to Cash or the band, just Johnny jumping on stage and picking up his guitar. Johnny always puts this tune over with a smile and chuckle that makes it much more entertaining and comical. From there, Johnny moves into the solemn Kris Kristofferson-penned “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down”, a look at someone reflecting on his life and feeling lost on a Sunday morning. This tune is one of my favorites. Johnny’s delivery is more believable for the life he has led, and I don’t think that any one else could have pulled this one off as well.
After a good run through my all-time favorite Cash song “I Walk The Line”, Johnny introduces, as the “originator” of Rock ’n’ Roll, Carl Perkins, who performs two of his tunes: the classic “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Matchbox”. Carl goes through his routine dancing of fancy footwork while he sings and solos. People love to see these same steps that he has been doing since the beginning of his career, playing in small honky-tonks and juke joints. As Carl sings “Matchbox”, the camera has Johnny in the shadows, getting the crowd to clap along to the song; a very interesting and cool shot.
Johnny comes back for a good version of another Kristofferson song “Me And Bobby McGee” and a short version of “Guess Things Happen That Way”, before introducing the Statler Brothers. The Statlers have two songs that showcase their four-part country harmony, which for some reason always makes me smile and think of my mother; who by the way, introduced a very young Fantasma to her wonderful world of music, which included country classics such as Mr. Cash, his family and friends and solid 1960s pop/rock as well. (Thanks, Ma.) The Statlers do sing another favorite of mine, their all-time hit “Flowers On The Wall”.
Johnny comes back once more for a rocking version of “Folsom Prison Blues”, which puts the spotlight on his longtime backing band, the legendary Tennessee Three: Marshall Grant on bass, who has been with Cash from the start, W.S. “Fluke” Holland on drums, who started his career in the Carl Perkins band and was last to join, and taking over for the beloved Luther Perkins, (no relation to Carl) Bob Wootton on guitar.
Johnny talks about his concerts at various prisons next, before introducing his wife June. As soon as she appears, you can see Johnny light up and give a truly sincere smile. One can tell that Johnny’s love for his wife is something greater than himself by his loving glances and long looks into June’s eyes as they sing together. That look is definitely more than an act. They do three numbers including the Grammy-winning “If I Were A Carpenter”, “Help Me Through The Night”, and the one that hits home for me, John Sebastian’s original “Darling Companion”.
Next, the lights go out on the band and Johnny is left in the spotlight for his then current single, and what is now his theme song, “Man In Black”, a powerful song that tells the reasons why he wears all black. This shot of Johnny and the one I mentioned early with Carl make up for the few times that the cameramen goof and we get some shots of the back of John’s head or some other off angles.
John then gives a proud introduction to Mother Maybelle and the Carter Family, then consisting of June’s mother and two sisters Anita and Helen. Their “A Song To Mama” is a moving tune about Ma Carter and the girls’ love and appreciation for her. At the point where Johnny does the spoken verse, there is an insert of Ma looking somewhat uncomfortable, yet moved to tears by the song.
After a long round of rhythmic applause from the crowd, John brings everyone back out on stage for three spiritual numbers to close the show. All three songs are entertaining and have that Johnny Cash sound to them. If I need to explain that sound here again, then you should probably stop reading and go out and get yourself an essential collection of Johnny Cash material. The song “No Need To Worry” has a chorus that says, “I found out that if you take one step/ he’ll take two” which is a Bible reference and seems to mean more knowing Johnny’s struggles throughout his life. The show ends with “Children, Go Where I Send Thee”, the song is Cash-penned and involves singing verses up to twelve, using everybody on different parts; much the way that the “Twelve Days Of Christmas” is sung.
If you recall that the opening song is “A Boy Named Sue”, then closing with a spiritual might seem a bit of an odd way to end a Johnny Cash show. Yet if one knows John’s life story, then it seems that the songs are the perfect bookends to a Cash concert. Everything that the man is and stands for is summed up in his shows, which this taping is a condensed version of. The DVD clocks in at just under an hour, but his highly entertaining and does move very well from segment to segment. All the hep kats and my “Kitten” should enjoy this one from start to finish.
Overall, this DVD is a good look at Johnny Cash just a few years before he became an outlaw to the establishment of country music, refusing to alter his sound or his vision of what they wanted his music to be. As a final note though, I do believe that the Cash well might be running a bit dry, as this DVD contains no bonus material of any kind. Besides being a solid Cash performance, it doesn’t seem to have much significance in John’s career, so it will be interesting to see what is released next. Hopefully I’m wrong, and we can keep getting quality Cash output.
So there it is and here we go… this one is for Johnny and fifty years of the best and we all know that his music will be felt for at least fifty more.