Dressed in Black: A Tribute to Johnny Cash

Dressed in Black: A Tribute to Johnny Cash

3.3 3
A spotty but spirited tribute, Dressed in Black stays true to the elegant simplicity and rootsy grandeur of Johnny Cash's music, forsaking even flourishes such as the horns on "Ring of Fire" in favor of a basic trio or quartet backing on the tracks. The song selection underscores Cash's towering stature as a songwriter and, in a few


A spotty but spirited tribute, Dressed in Black stays true to the elegant simplicity and rootsy grandeur of Johnny Cash's music, forsaking even flourishes such as the horns on "Ring of Fire" in favor of a basic trio or quartet backing on the tracks. The song selection underscores Cash's towering stature as a songwriter and, in a few cases, his impeccable choice of like-minded cover songs. Aside from Robbie Fulks's strained reading of "Cry Cry Cry" and the usually formidable Dale Watson's studied rendering of "I Walk the Line," the performances here evoke the spirit of the originals while adding a fresh spin via each artist's signature style. Classicists will find Rodney Crowell's and Raul Malo's exquisite balladic renderings of, respectively, "Ballad of a Teenage Queen" and "I Guess Things Happen That Way" more than worth the price of admission. Kelly Willis is a flat-out heartbreaker in a shuffling duet with Charlie Robison on Richard Fariña's folktale of philosophical self-sacrifice, "Pack Up Your Sorrows." Billy Burnette (whose bloodline connects him directly to Cash's Sun roots) gives the monumental "Ring of Fire" a credible, in-the-pocket, rockabilly workout, and album co-producer Chuck Mead of BR5-49 teams with Mandy Barnett for a feisty run at "Jackson." But the album's bookends are for the ages: Hank Williams III's stark interpretation of "Wreck of the Old '97" opens the disc by summoning the ghostly apparition of his legendary grandfather in parched, nasal tones, and Chris Knight's take on the earthy love song "Flesh & Blood," with a viola conjuring a sepia-toned ambiance as the artist declares his love and longing in a voice thirsting for succor, is a chilling finale. In a year notable for its focus on Johnny Cash's legacy, Dressed in Black is a fitting salute to the things he's handed down.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Robert L. Doerschuk
Few artists deserve tribute more than Johnny Cash, and none pose a greater challenge to those who would offer their homage. The problem is that his sound has been pounded so deep into America's soul that it's almost impossible to play his music without lapsing into imitation -- and those who try to avoid that trap can sound a little misguided. Examples of both approaches abound throughout Dressed in Black, though even the bravest performers generally sing to a tack bass rhythm accompanied by those menacing low guitar licks that Cash patented long ago. Some do a pretty good job of evoking Cash, especially James Intveld, whose rendition of "Folsom Prison Blues" comes darn close to the original, and Chuck Mead on "There You Go." Damon Bramblett also has Cash's phrasing down; the fact that his voice is pitched about an octave higher, along with his Maybelle Carter style on guitar, makes "I'm Gonna Sit on the Porch and Pick On My Old Guitar" a special treat. Then there's Billy Burnette, whose playing comes closest to the essence of Cash but whose vocals completely miss the squint-eyed macho quality that "Ring of Fire" requires. Rarest of all are those artists who have found their own voice yet use this format to acknowledge their forebears; none does this more persuasively than Dale Watson, who turns "I Walk the Line" into something both powerful and original -- the ultimate tribute that anyone can pay to the real icons in this business.
There's a few gems here that shouldn't be missed. Wes Orshoski

Product Details

Release Date:
Dualtone Music Group

Related Subjects


Album Credits

Performance Credits

Rodney Crowell   Acoustic Guitar,Vocals
Rosie Flores   Electric Guitar,Vocals
Kelly Willis   Vocals
Billy Burnette   Drums,Electric Guitar,Vocals
Damon Bramblett   Acoustic Guitar
Earl Poole Ball   Piano,Vocals
Billy Block   Drums,Vocals
Ken Coomer   Drums
James Intveld   Electric Guitar,Vocals
Jimmy Lester   Drums
Raul Malo   Electric Guitar,Vocals
Bruce Robison   Acoustic Guitar,Vocals
Tammy Rogers   Viola
Maxwell Schauf   Drums
Kenny Vaughan   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar
Redd Volkaert   Electric Guitar,Vocals
Dale Watson   Guitar,Vocals
W.S. Holland   Drums
Eddie Angel   Electric Guitar,Vocals
Mandy Barnett   Vocals
Robbie Fulks   Acoustic Guitar,Vocals
Hawk Shaw Wilson   Drums
Chuck Mead   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Vocals,Guitar Effects
Hank Williams   Acoustic Guitar,Vocals
Chris Knight   Acoustic Guitar,Vocals
Esis   Drums
Jerry Roe   Drums
David Roe   Vocals,Acoustic Bass
Tom Lewis   Drums

Technical Credits

Norman Blake   Composer
Johnny Cash   Composer,Liner Notes
Bob Johnson   Composer
Billy Edd Wheeler   Composer
Chuck Mead   Producer
Gaby Rodgers   Composer
Roy Cash   Composer
Paul Gannon   Engineer
David Roe   Producer

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Dressed in Black: A Tribute to Johnny Cash 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In a year that's seen the reissue of so many original Cash LPs, one might wonder what need there is for a tribute album. The answer, as unwound on this album, is obvious: the impact of Cash's music far exceeds his own recordings, having become an essential element of American music. These eighteen covers illuminate both Cash's original legacy -- his songs -- as well as the influence he's had on several generations of musicians. ¶ Like any such various artist compilation, the results are uneven. But unlike many such collections, this one's high-points are exceptionally high, and the remaining cuts are still intriguing. Among the highlights is the opening triple-threat of Hank Williams III, Robbie Fulks, and Rodney Crowell. Others impressive reworkings include those from Rev. Horton Heat, Billy Burnette and Chris Knight. ¶ Hank III's remake of "Wreck of the Old '97" weds the wail of his grand-dad with the locomotive energy of Cash. Williams' and Chuck Mead's guitars push the rhythm that's laid down by bassist Dave Roe and drummer W.S. Holland, and Col. J.D. Wilkes' harmonica screams like a runaway train. ¶ Fulks attacks "Cry, Cry, Cry" with an urgency that even Cash's original (his first single for Sun) didn't register, and Rodney Crowell makes hay from one of the lightest-weight tunes in the Cash catalog, Jack Clement's "Ballad of a Teenage Queen." Though "Ballad" was a #1 country hit for Cash in 1958, Clement's production, especially the chorus and soprano backing vocals, always seemed like mismatch for Cash's presence. Not so with Crowell's take - the cleaner lines of the ringing guitar, the smoothly mixed backing vocals and the narrative lead vocal polishes the song into a true gem. ¶ Rev. Horton Heat infuses his rockabilly mania into "Get Rhythm," while still retaining the essence of Cash's original version. Similarly, Billy Burnette modernizes "Ring of Fire" without losing its soul; the song's loping tempo and iconic guitar hook are lovingly rendered as sacred text. Chris Knight sings Cash's "Flesh and Blood" as his own, rendering it in the spare, acoustic style that's become his trademark. Stripped of the strings and female backing chorus of Cash's 1970 original, the imagery of nature is ever more potent. ¶ A pair of duets recount the combined success of Cash and June Carter. Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis' rendition of "Pack Up Your Sorrows" hints at the Cash/Carter version with it's click-clack train rhythm, but their softer, polished voices more closely follow the song's originators, Richard & Mimi Farina. Mandy Barnett and Chuck Mead's "Jackson" can't possibly match the bristling interpersonal spark of the original, but it fully captures the songs swaggering repartee, and, unlike Nancy Sinatra, Barnett (singing the hell out of the song) gets the lyric "And I'll be waitin' in Jackson, behind my Ja-pan fan" right! ¶ As noted at the top, a world in which Cash's originals are readily available still needs these covers, if only to remind us that Cash's songs -- those he's written, and those he's simply made his own -- are as iconic as his performances.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This album with only 3 decent tracks has one good thing about it.it ends!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this is miles above Kiindred Spirits. It has the traditional sound that made Johnny Cash a Legend.I can only found fault in one track and that is Hank The 3rd.He went far away from the style of The wreck of the old 97.I would put money on "A listener" liking this song.He obviously is not a follower of traditional sounding music.My take on Kindred Spirits is,you don't change words to Johnny Cash songs!!!When you have perfection,you cannot make it better.Keb Moe should not have been put on the album if he had to change the words to the song.I am ashamed of Marty Stuart for allowing this.I would vote for Rodney Crowell as best former son in law over Marty Stuart after seeing how they each pay Tribute to the true Man in Black.