Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Travel Tunes - Week 12

John and June Carter Cash
The very first record I every bought with my own money was a 45 single of "A Boy Named Sue " by Johnny Cash.  At the time, I just enjoyed the funny song, not really knowing too much about the man in black.  As the years passed, I became a huge fan and collected many of his records. 

As funny as "A Boy Named Sue" is, most people think of Cash as a dark singer.  The classic is the line from "Folsom Prison  Blues"..."I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die."  In "Jackson.", he and his wife are fighting and he's threatening to go to Jackson and get him some action.  "Walk the Line" tells about how hard it is to be committed and in's a hard, narrow line to walk.  Listen closely to "Delia's Gone" and you'll notice that it's not about a man missing his woman, it's about a man tying up his wife and murdering her.  Indeed, even "A Boy Named Sue" was recorded in a room full of hardened criminals at San Quentin prison...a lot of the energy in the song comes from those convicts just being allowed to throw off the darkness of their surroundings for a few minutes. 

One of the most poignant, dark, but somehow uplifting albums was one of the last released before his death, "American IV: The Man Comes Around ."  Listening to it sounds like it should be played at his funeral.  It's a deep meditation on life and Cash seems to know that it will be ending soon.  Sends chills down my spine but it is a great album.

Cash did have a light side and liked to let it loose.  Many of his songs broke up the darkness and were just joyful expressions such as "Tennessee Flat Top Box" and our travel tune for this week, his great rendition of Hank Snow's hit, "I've Been Everywhere."

Think of it as a musical version of the stickers you see on RV's for each location they've been too.  In the song, the singer is a hitchiker picked up by trucker near Winnemucca.  From there, it's just a joyful litany of all the places he's been.  Unfortunately, the only video I could find with Cash actually singing is this rather poor quality one with  Lynn Anderson  of "I Never Promised you a Rose Garden" fame.  Below is a much better audio version that is a slide show tribute to Cash and his life.



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