More The Merrier

This appeared in The Sault Star - September 19, 2008

Tommy Cash doesn’t mind company when he steps into a recording studio.

He has recorded duets with older brother Johnny ("Guess Things Happen That Way"), Jeannie C. Riley ("We Got Love," "Winners") and George Jones ("Hank & George, Lefty & Me," "Thoughts on the Flag").

Cash, 68, kept that collaborative spirit alive when he recorded his recently release disc, Shades of Black.

For the biggest hit of his career, "Six White Horses," Cash recruited Marty Stuart, a former son-in-law, and member of the Man in Black’s backing band.

When Cash sent Stuart a rough mix of Shades of Black and asked him to choose a track to join him on, the younger singer opted for his tribute to John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

“Marty has always loved the song,” said Cash in a recent telephone interview from his home in Hendersonville, Tennessee.

“He’s got some great guitar licks that he added on the session. He sings very, very well with me on that song.”

"Six White Horses," which was a Top 20 chart hit when it was released in 1970, has been revisited by Cash before. He updated the lament later that decade on his New Spirit album.

Cash tried updating the song several years ago, but wasn’t impressed with his efforts.

“I sat down one day and rewrote some of the verses and it just didn’t work,” he said.

“I’m not going to say what words I used, but I just tried to write some extra spice into the song and it didn’t work. As a songwriter I realized that, so kill that idea. I can’t take a song that’s a classic and make it better by changing the words. I made it better by having another artist who has quite a following to come in and sing with me. It came off really good.”

The latest version of "Six White Horses" has “a different feel” thanks to Stuart’s input. “It just sounds a little different than the original,” said Cash. “It’s got more funk to it. His guitar playing is more today’s sound than we had on the original record.”

When Cash came upon "Some Kind of a Woman," a song he wrote 35 years ago, he decided Jones would be a good fit on the uptempo track’s choruses. Jones was impressed with what he heard. “He said, ‘This song is a hit. I’ll be glad to come and sing on it with you.’”

Cash hopes having Stuart and Jones on board with Shades of Black will stir public interest and, just maybe, get played on radio.

“Anytime you can get a major artist to come in and sing a duet with you, it has a better chance of airplay and it has a much better chance too for fans to look and say, ‘Oh, George Jones is singing with Tommy. Oh, Marty Stuart is singing with him.’ It should increase the enthusiasm about the album.”

Shades of Black also features several takes on brother Johnny’s biggest hits, including "Get Rhythm" and "Ring of Fire."

Cash is particularly pleased with his version of "Ragged Old Flag." The spoken word song, about patriotism and the Watergate political scandal, was featured on a 1974 album of the same name.

“It’s good or better than anything else on this album,” he said. It’s really hooked. I’m really proud of it.”

Cash performs his tribute show to his brother at Kiwanis Community Theatre Centre Saturday night. It’s his fourth appearance in Sault Ste. Marie since 2004. Local band The Comedics will back up Cash. His band, The Tom Cats, will meet him for a matinee in Richmond, Ont., Sunday.

“I think it’s great, an opportunity of a lifetime” said Comedics’ singer Dr. Gene Turgeon. “The band is really, really excited about doing it.”

Bandmate Dr. Lou Battel has practised “for months” with two harmonicas to perform Johnny Cash’s hit "Orange Blossom Special." “If he doesn’t want to do that then I’ll sing the lead,” said Turgeon. “We’ve got to get Lou up there with his two harmonicas. That’s a showstopper.”

The song isn’t included in Tommy Cash’s setlist. But when told about Battel’s efforts, the singer laughed softly. “I didn’t know he was doing that,” said Cash. “I can perform it, yes. We can do that.”

The Comedics will also unveil several new country songs, including "I Liked Johnny’s Records," "The Goulais River Stomp" and "P-I-G."

By Brian Kelly

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