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Johnny Cash

DRESSED IN BLACK (Dualtone) • Various Artists

I don't generally have no truck with tribute records. But the unforgettable songs of Johnny Cash are so essential and indestructible, that they bear well the interpretations of his devotees, among whom are the biggest stars from all decades. Dualtone has put together a very credible and down home homage to the man in black. It's all about the artists they picked. By establishing the highest profile with Rodney Crowell, they assured a recording that had true grit and real talent, and wasn't soft in the middle. And wasn't overproduced. Congratulations to producers Dave Roe and Chuck Mead (longtime Cash bandmates who also played bass and guitar on this record) for creating a record that feels as real as the original hits.

It's full of surprises. The beautiful cover of Richard Farina's "Pack Up Your Sorrows" by Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis was touching, and really set up Billy Burnette's version of "Ring of Fire" nicely. Kudos to Dualtone for including the electrifying Kenny Vaughan's version of "Train of Love." He is simply one of the best country, blues, and rockabilly pickers anywhere, period. I was happy to hear Mandy Barnett and Rosie Flores grace the recording as well, a mighty welcome sound.

Each of the artists include a little Cash quote in the liner notes, but the words of Rev. Horton Heat takes the cake: "One day I was hangin out with my cousin who had just gotten back from Vietnam. He stuck in the 8 track tape of Live at Folsom Prison. I still get chills when I think about the impact that had on me. It became the template for everything I do now, both musically and lyrically." Check out his version of "Get Rhythm" on the Listen page along with Kenny Vaughan.

The release date on this disc is September 17th. But you can go to the Dualtone Records web site and pre-order it, and be entered to win a Martin guitar autographed by Johnny Cash and a limited edition lithograph of the Dressed in Black album cover. Go on and do it. • FG

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