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]
By Brian Mansfield