Kindred Spirits: A Tribute To The Songs of Johnny Cash

Here's what they're are saying about this album:

From some of the fans:

"Marty Stuart produced and played on most of the tracks of this record. His work with the Johnny Cash show comes through in flying colors. There is a real mixture of varied talent on this record all doing Johnny Cash songs. What a mixture--Bob Dylan, Little Richard, The Boss, Hank Jr., Travis Tritt, Dwight Yoakum, and the big surprise Janette Carter. Janette, the daughter of A.P.and Sara, is a great addition to this project and the group singing with her are top-notch. Johnny deserves our thanks for writing such great songs and Marty for putting this tribute together in a very enjoyable package. This CD is one for your music collection." -- Royce R. Sillivan

"The Statler Bros used to do a great tribute song that paid respects to what John R. Cash had done for them, and this CD takes that thought to a whole new plane. We all owe Cash. When the brass kicks in on Yoakam's 'Understand Your Man,' one has to tip the hat to Cash for 'inventing' brass on country music on 'Ring of Fire.' First man in took the hits: Cash. Little Richard reminds us that when Cash and the Sun Records gang hit vinyl, nothing would remain the same. Laugh if you want, but Cash took the higher artistic road and avoided the craze that became Elvis, and is alive to tell about it. Throw in the obvious heartfelt comments by Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Hank Williams Jr and you began to understand that all popular music culture, from folk to rock to hard country, know that Cash is one of the pillars that makes their art. Chapin-Carpenter, Crow and Harris at the same time? Only a song with the weight of 'Flesh and Blood' could make that work. Marty Stuart did a great job on this project. (I've just got to figure out who or what the heck a Keb Mo' is. The courage to touch Folsom Prison Blues make him interesting as well as talented!) 'For Luther,' by The Mudcats, is a haunting memory click to the importance of Luther Perkins. Luther truely did play the boogie woogie and Johnny has always been very clear about Luthers role in his career,and its the inclusion here of that tribute is another example of artistic correctness cash-style. If you've studied country music history at all, turn off the lights and concentrate on 'Meet Me In Heaven.' If you don't feel chills on your spine, hear more of the Carter family and read about Johnny's thought on God. This testament to Family and God couldn't be more rendering. Do I like this CD? It meets John R Cash's approval, that means it is good. Who cares who else likes it: hear it." -- A Music Fan, Manhattan, KS

"The songs of Johnny Cash have once again laid the foundation for a tribute album, and this one may be the *one*. Despite some tentative entries by some well-meaning younger artists, we have a perennial here. (And I did not detect any computer-driven sounds). Yes, Charlie Robison's version of 'Don't Take Your Guns To Town' (I wish Bruce S., who did 'Give My Love To Rose', and Charlie R. switched tunes), Kevin "Keb' Mo'" Moore's 'Folsom Prison Blues', and Travis Tritt's 'I Walk The Line', are good listenable, respectful tributes but somehow fall short on their own. 'I Walk The Line' is an exotic beat ballad and the original is the one that works for me. Then again there's Jaye P. Morgan's...j/k, JP. Not to dwell on younger-older, especially on a from-the-heart set like this, but the seasoned pipes of Little Richard, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen really carry the message. Richard, at age 69, delivers on 'Get Rhythm', a melody finely tuned to his staccato vocal style, though a lower key might have been even more effective; his piano playing is well-mixed. His longtime sideman Jesse Boyce is on bass. Bob [Dylan] is not in his best voice on 'Train Of Love', but the arrangement is so good that one is not concerned about the occasional roughness. Bruce's contribution could easily take a place on any of his own albums, though the track runs a little long.
At the end of the day, it's Mr. Johnny Cash, who seizes the moment. Along with Janette Carter, a Carter family member, influential artist, and founder of the Carter Family Music Memorial, and June Carter Cash, et. al, he sings 'Meet Me In Heaven', a monumental reflection for the ages. His is the last voice we hear and it's sensitively presented." -- P. Silverman

"Hit and miss tribute ... but for people who like Cash's music; who already have his music on CD; and who are not completists ("I simply must have every recording Charlie Robison ever makes"), there's little reason to own this CD. But, for those who have a curiousity in Cash's songwriting, but, for whatever reason, don't want to buy the original recordings, KINDRED SPIRITS does a good job at highlighting some of the best songs in Cash's catalog. The best moments: Springsteen's Nebraska-esque take on 'Give My Love to Rose,' Steve Earle's 'Hardin Wouldn't Run' (which definitively establishes the lineage between Cash's 1960s recordings and Earle's best work), Rosanne Cash's touching remake of 'I Still Miss Someone' and Dwight Yoakam's ragged remake of 'Understand Your Man' -- the only cut here that comes close to equaling the original. The worst moments: Keb Mo's profound misreading of 'Folsom Prison Blues' (which, with a few sacreligious lyric tweaks, transforms the narrator from a cold-blooded killer to a wrongly jailed man); Travis Tritt's dirge-like interpretation of 'I Walk the Line'; and a way-too-enthusiastic redo of 'Get Rhythm' by Little Richard's (yes, Little Richard). Disappointing but not fatal: 'Flesh and Blood' by Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow and Mary Chapin Carpenter (not only is this slowed down too much, but the three-part harmonies seem off the mark; the song, after all, is about solitude and reflection); Dylan's 'Train of Love' (recorded not for this CD, but rather captured from the 1999 tribute to Cash televised on TNT; the song leads off with Dylan's apology -- 'Sorry we couldn't be with you tonight' -- which makes no sense on record); and Charlie Robison's take on 'Don't Take Your Guns to Town' (sorry, son, you are just plain out of your league). If CDs sold for four or five bucks, I'd say this one was worth it. But, at $13-$15, you are better off investing your money in the originals -- or, if you have those, waiting patiently for Cash's next CD." -- A Music Fan, Alexandria, VA

From United Press International:

Marty Stuart's belief, and proclamation, has resulted in an impressive, yet eclectic, mix of artists who came together for Kindred Spirits: A Tribute to the Songs of Johnny Cash, which was released Sept. 24 by Columbia/Lucky Dog Records. Stuart produced the record.

Kindred Spirits is the second Cash tribute project in as many weeks. An independent label, Dualtone Records, released Dressed In Black: A Tribute to Johnny Cash on Sept. 17.

When Stuart was approached two years ago about doing a Cash tribute record, he spent some time deciding on the right approach.

"A tribute to Johnny Cash is not the most original concept in the world," Stuart said recently from Nashville's Columbia Records office. "But he's never been heralded as a great American songwriter that has affected a whole lot of different genres of people."

So Stuart paired classic Cash compositions with some of music's finest. The end project features Bob Dylan, Little Richard, Keb' Mo', Bruce Springsteen, Dwight Yoakum, Hank Williams Jr., Roseanne Cash, Sheryl Crow, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Emmylou Harris and others.

"I started out just brainstorming, coming up with a dream list," Stuart said of selecting the artists. "Everybody on this record, they're stars, true personalities.

"Some things were obvious," he said. "I had seen Travis Tritt sing 'I Walk The Line' and I saw Johnny Cash give him a standing ovation. (Also) we had just come from New York City where Emmylou, Chapin, Sheryl Crow and I did "Flesh and Blood," so that was a good one to include."

As for some of the other choices, such as Little Richard and Keb' Mo', Stuart said, "I took all of the rules off it."

Stuart even invited Cash to participate.

The Man In Black sang background vocals on "Meet Me In Heaven," which features Janette Carter, a cousin of the infamous Carter Family. Cash's wife, June Carter Cash, a member of the Carter family and Janette's cousin, also recorded background vocals on the song, marking the first time the cousins had ever recorded together.

The nepotism does not stop there. Stuart's wife and country music diva, Connie Smith, also sang on "Meet Me In Heaven," along with Earl Scruggs.

"There's a whole lot of icon (on that track)," Stuart said.

As the various artists performed their assigned songs, artistic interpretation certainly took over, resulting in songs that may or may not sound like the original.

Tritt's "I Walk The Line" has a slower tempo with different phrasing; Little Richard's "Get Rhythm" features his signature keyboard playing; Dylan's "Train Of Love" is pure Dylanesque; Keb' Mo' changed a line or two in "Folsom Prison Blues" because he was uncomfortable singing "I shot a man in Reno/Just to watch him die"; and Stuart's "Hey, Porter" is a rollicky rockabilly style in true Stuart fashion.

"We approached every song he had written as the original was unbeatable," Stuart said. "(Then) we approached the rest of it with love and inspiration."

From USA Today:

Johnny Cash has sung so many songs of such a vast scope during his nearly half-century career that each person tends to identify with the Cash he needs. There's Cash the pill-popping rebel, Cash the folk balladeer, Cash the singer of prison songs, Cash the faithful Christian.

The artists on Kindred Spirits: A Tribute to the Music of Johnny Cash draw from a wider selection of material, and each singer fuses Cash's style with his own. Little Richard turns "Get Rhythm" into a wild, piano-based rocker. Steve Earle's version of "Hardin Wouldn't Run" makes it sound like a predecessor of his own outlaw songs. Two performances — Bob Dylan's "Train of Love" and Bruce Springsteen's "Give My Love to Rose"— come from TNT's 1999 special An All-Star Tribute to Johnny Cash. The rest, by artists from Dwight Yoakam to Keb' Mo', are newly recorded. By focusing on Cash the songwriter rather than Cash the stylist, they're able to make Kindred Spirits an album worth listening to, even if you already have Cash's originals. [* * * 1/2]

From The Tennessean:

Johnny Cash turned 70 years old this annum, and plenty of folks are pausing to consider his monumental impact on American popular music. Sony/Legacy has released a slew of classic Cash albums, and dozens of musician friends and admirers have contributed to two tribute albums: the Dave Roe and Chuck Mead-produced Dressed In Black and the Marty Stuart-produced Kindred Spirits.

Dressed In Black features numerous underground heroes of roots music (Dale Watson, Robbie Fulks, etc.), while Kindred Spirits focuses on the superstar set (Dylan, Springsteen, Hank Williams Jr. and others), and the projects seem to complement each other, rather than compete.

"The other record is just as valid, just as poignant," Stuart said of Dressed In Black. "I love that record, and those guys are swinging from a great place." Mead returned the compliment and said, "There's enough different that people can get both records and get something out of both of them. I think they're companion pieces, in a way.

''I don't know a lot about what Johnny Cash thinks,'' said Marty Stuart, producer of a just-released Cash tribute called Kindred Spirits. ''But I do know that he's proud of his songs.''

With that in mind, Stuart set out to create an album that would shine a spotlight on those songs, a collection that would underscore Cash's reputation as, in Stuart's words, a ''Stephen Foster-level writer.''

Stuart — who has been off the country music charts since his critically acclaimed, commercially disastrous The Pilgrim bowed in 1999 — had a major-label budget and a bevy of A-list music stars at his disposal, yet he said the success of Kindred Spirits could only be gauged by one man.

''I knew the bottom line with this record was, I had to sit down and play it for Johnny Cash, and I had to look him in the eye while he was listening. When I did play it for him and the verdict came in the form of handshakes, smiles and tears on both sides, I knew my job was done and the results were in.''

Two of the tracks — Bob Dylan's take on "Train of Love" and Bruce Springsteen's plaintive, solo-acoustic version of "Give My Love to Rose" — were taken from a tribute special that ran in 1999 on TNT. The rest of the lot was recorded with Stuart at the production helm, and the performances range from Dwight Yoakam's propulsive, hyper-billy "Understand Your Man" to the trio of Mary Chapin Carpenter, Sheryl Crow and Emmylou Harris doing a sweet, hopeful "Flesh & Blood." Even R&B legend Little Richard appears, blasting through a maniacal "Get Rhythm."

''That Little Richard cut was one of my pet tracks,'' Stuart said. ''When I see him on talk shows or whatever, I see a sleeping giant. Usually, he does abbreviated performances and then plugs whatever he's plugging. But I still recognize the genius in there. I figured he's like a Fender Telecaster guitar: it does one thing really, really good. I wanted to plug Richard back into his greatness, musically.''

Bluesman Keb' Mo' at first declined to sing "Folsom Prison Blues," saying he was disturbed by the lyrics.

''He said, 'That's a good song, but I can't sing it,' '' Stuart recalled. ''He said, 'That line about ''I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die,'' that turns my stomach.' I said, 'I understand that, so let's change it.' We recorded it, and he changed the line to 'They say I shot a man in Reno, but that was just a lie.' We got it down on the first take, and I said, 'Let me tell you about that line you just changed: That's one of the most sacred lines in country music.' ''

Stuart took the track to longtime Cash cohort, songwriter, producer and friend Cowboy Jack Clement, a man who has been around Cash since the 1950s. Clement, who often pontificates that ''there are two kinds of people: those that know about Johnny Cash and like his music, and those that will,'' heard Keb' Mo's version and said, ''You know, I always thought that line could use a little work.''

To Stuart's way of thinking, the most important tracks are the ones with family connections. Johnny's daughter, Rosanne Cash, presents "I Still Miss Someone" in sad but lovely form, and wife June Carter Cash guests on a track featuring cousin Janette Carter: "Meet Me in Heaven." Cash himself sings some lines toward the end of the song, providing the album's formidable last word.

''Having him at the end said to me, 'All you babies did real good trying, but this is how it's done,' '' Stuart said. ''And his voice, it just has all that authority to it. You know, the whole Johnny Cash thing isn't something that can be turned on and off. If he's fishing on a creek bank, the fish have to notice his charisma. That's probably what draws them to his hook.''

From Billboard Magazine:

Along with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Dwight Yoakam, and Travis Tritt, country legend Johnny Cash appears on his own upcoming tribute album, "Kindred Spirits," due this week from Lucky Dog/Sony Music Nashville. The 14-track compilation includes a rendition of his song "Meet Me in Heaven" on which Cash guests, along with his wife June Carter Cash.

"Kindred Spirits" boasts some of Cash's greatest songs, according to Marty Stuart, who produced the album and was previously a member of Cash's backing band. "My vision from the start has been to portray Johnny Cash the songwriter," he says. "He's such a poignant and insightful writer and this has never been done. In the likeness of Johnny, each artist brought their own interpretation to the songs. Johnny's renegade spirit transcends throughout the project."

Among those interpretations is Springsteen's stark rendition of "Give My Love to Rose," along with Little Richard's rollicking romp through "Get Rhythm," the B-side to Cash's third Sun Records single, "I Walk the Line." Elsewhere, Dylan adds "Train of Love," contemporary bluesman Keb' Mo' covers the classic "Folsom Prison Blues," while veteran blues artist Charlie Robison contributes "Don't Take Your Guns to Town." In addition to cuts by Hank Williams Jr., Steve Earle, and others is a collaboration by Mary Chapin Carpenter, Sheryl Crow, and Emmylou Harris on the song "Flesh and Blood."

From the Associated Press:

Getting the tracks for the Johnny Cash tribute album wasn't a collection of covers, claims Marty Stuart.

The producer of last year's Grammy-winning tribute to Hank Williams said put together Kindred Spirits: A Tribute to the Songs of Johnny Cash was the work of artists.

Bluesman Keb Mo' contributed a truly original take on "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," for "Timeless," the Williams tribute album.

But when Keb Mo' was studying "Folsom Prison Blues" to find his interpretation of the song for Cash's tribute album, he called Stuart.

He told Stuart he loved the song, with one exception. He didn't like the lyric "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die," it turns his stomach.

But Stuart had worked with Cash on a Bruce Springsteen tribute, where Cash changed The Boss' words to "I'm on Fire."

So Stuart suggested Keb Mo' do what Cash did -- change it!

Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Little Richard and Dwight Yoakam also sing on the Cash tribute.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Johnny Cash turned 70 on Feb. 26 and it's nice that a lot of artists, from Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen, are saluting this giant of American pop culture in tribute albums. But I can't imagine putting money in a jukebox to hear almost any of them. The Cash originals, however? Anyone got change for a five?

**½ Various artists, Kindred Spirits: A Tribute to the Songs of Johnny Cash, Sony Nashville. This 14-track package, illustrates the extremes of tribute albums. Some artists--Dylan, Springsteen, Keb Mo--rework the original songs so aggressively that they sound like, well, Dylan, Springsteen and Keb Mo tracks. Others--Hank Williams Jr. and Marty Stuart--try to duplicate the spirit of Cash's versions. Both are interesting, but only fleetingly.

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