Their legacy lives onů
Last week, two very different but iconoclastically distinctive voices in popular music were silenced.
Just days after being released from the hospital, and with the promise of a return to the studio to follow up his 2002 album American IV: The Man Comes Around, Johnny Cash died from complications due to diabetes on Sept. 12. The "Man in Black," a cornerstone of American music, was 71.
Earlier that week, on Sept. 7, Warren Zevon, one of the creators of the folk rock "California sound" in the '70s, finally succombed to lung cancer less than two weeks after the release of his final album, The Wind. He was 56.
Zevon made his mark and recorded his best work in the '70s, with the sardonic humor of songs like "Werewolves of London," "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me" (a hit for Linda Ronstadt) and "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead," though he continued to produce strong albums until the time of his death.
Fans who wish to relive the great moments of both artists have plenty of opportunity. The Columbia Legacy label has been reissuing all of Cash's classic work over the past two years in celebration of Cash's 70th birthday and Sony issued a country and rock artist tribute to Cash, Kindred Spirits, earlier this year. And, ironically, a blues-based tribute album to Cash was released earlier this summer that was slated for review in Pop Stops this week, before Cash's death. That review appears below.
Zevon fans have a new album to take solace in, as well as last year's excellent Genius compilation from Elektra/Rhino. The 22-song set covers Zevon's career from the early '70s, when he often collaborated with Jackson Browne, Rondstadt and members of the Eagles, through his R.E.M. collaboration Hindu Love Gods in 1990 to his more recent work.
Columbia's Legacy label has three discs on the shelves this week that also celebrate the music of influential artists from the '60s and early '70s who are no longer with us. Legacy has issued an excellent document from blues great Muddy Waters. Muddy "Mississippi" Waters Live is an 18-track, two-disc set recorded near the end of Waters' life, and features Johnny Winter and James Cotton helping him run through his best known standards, from "Mannish Boy" to "Hoochie Coochie Man."
The label has also issued an expanded package of The Byrds Sweetheart of the Rodeo album from 1968. One of those albums, that was ignored on release but came to be celebrated later, Sweetheart featured the late Gram Parsons, and took The Byrds in a new "country-rock" direction that later would help inspire an artistic movement in the early '70s. The reissue features a second disc of practice sessions and material from Parson's previous band, the International Submarine Band.
Live at Sin-E, a two-disc Columbia/Legacy set from the late Jeff Buckley, includes 34 tracks and a DVD with interviews and concert footage of the singer-songwriter.
Johnny's Blues: A Tribute to Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash is known, of course, as an icon in American roots music, with his focus on traditional folk, patriotic and even gospel treatments. But Cash also explored elements of the blues, and the Northern Blues label put together a tribute CD this year that focuses on that side of Cash's repetoire.
Paul Reddick opens Johnny's Blues with a rumbling slide-blues guitar remake of "Train of Love," and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown teams with Benjy Davis for a rollicking run-through of "Get Rhythm." Maria Muldaur (known for "Midnight at the Oasis") puts together a sparse, classic blues pickin' track in "Walking the Blues" and Garland Jeffreys provides an energetic cover of "I Walk the Line."
"Rock Island Line," "Folsom Prison Blues," "Long Black Veil" and "Redemption" all get fine reworkings, before it all wraps up with Colin Linden's big twang and echo-drenched production of Cash's classic "Big River" and Mavis Staples' slowly building, gospel-rich "Will The Circle Be Unbroken." The world-weary grit of Staples' voice offers the perfect ending to this celebratory tribute to the one and only "Man in Black."