Blood Sweat And Tears
Johnny Cash is a renowned master
interpreter of that most deceptively “simply” form of song, the folk
ballad. Intensity of passion and dedication of spirit are keystone upon
which Johnny builds unforgettable performances to capture your imagination
and stir your emotions. In his newest album, he offers a rich collection
of kind of songs aptly implied by the title he has chosen for it.
“Blood, seat And Tears” contains ballads about hard rock resisting
hard muscle, ballads of hard heads times, hard heads and hard hearts.
Johnny devotes most of the
album’s first side of a positively electrifying performance of “The
Legend Of John Henry’s Hammer” This celebrated ballad tells what
happened to giant of steel driver who could out-drill any man on the job.
John Henry is tormented by a mine boss (“Give me enough coal to start
another Hell” ) challenged
by the newly invented automatic steam drill, but he goes to his
death gloriously defying both. “I’ll die with my hammer in my hand
(but I’ll be laughing’)” Johnny sings, “ cause you can’t replace
a steel-driven man”.
After Johnny’s moving
“Tell Him I’m Gone” he sings “Another Man Done Gone” a ballad
about the grim fate of an escaped convict “He had A Long Chain On”
Although it is spare of words, the song does tell us that he was captured
and hanged before witnesses, his children among.
Harlen Howard’s song
Busted, is unusual in that it concerns the dire circumstances of a
down-and-outer, but it treats them in a half-humorous, almost
philosophically cheerful way. Until near end, that is, Johnny changes his
approach to the song when he sings, “a man can go wrong when he’s
busted…. Where I’ll make a livin’ the lord knows”.
The “brave engineer”
Casey Jones was, of course, a real-life figure. A handsome, robust
Irishman, he became an engineer in his mid-twenties. Ballad versions vary
and embellish details of his spectacular story. Actually, Casey’s run
was on the Cannonball
Express traveling between Memphis, Tennessee and Canton Mississippi. In
the early morning hours of April 30, 1906, about ten miles north of
Canton, Casey and his fireman Sim webb roared around an S-curve right into
the rear of another train. Viewed simply as a chronicle of events, Casey
Jones is one of the world’s most exciting ballads. But it is at the same
time a compelling argument for the inevitability of fate. From the very
beginning of Johnny cash’s version with its eerie whippoorwill-like
train whistle, know that Casey is doomed. As Johnny points out, his orders
that morning said, in effect, that Casey was “taking a trip to the
(“When I’m long gone, make my tombstone out of number nine
coal”) “Chain Gang” and
“Waiting For the Train” tell their own stories Johnny’s album
concludes on a lighter note, however, with Sheb Wooley’s
delightful song about a brawny character who can brag, “But now,
“layin pip is ha-a-ard “labor” He was born to be a “Roughneck”.
Vinyl LP -Columbia CS - 8730
Available On CD
No Longer Available New ! On Vinyl