Monday, July 7, 2008

The JC Special


Most of my friends are Johnny Cash fans. Actually, they are fanatics, as am I (but who isn't a self-proclaimed JC fanatic these days?). Even the girls are. But most all of my buddies hold Cash up to a higher level of like and respect, as there really isn't anyone live or dead that can compare to the Man in Black. (Insert your own comment or begin your argument here. I'm ready. Trust me.)

So, two weekends ago, one of the aforementioned buddies had his bachelor party in Tunica, Mississippi. And being that Tunica is just a short ways from Memphis, I naturally wanted to stop by and see Sun Studios, Graceland, Beale Street, etc... Alas, there was no time for that, as we had other vices that needed tending to rather than another rock n roll history tour...maybe next time.

After the weekend was over, we all went our separate ways back to Atlanta, Knoxville, Memphis, Nashville and a few other places that we have spread out to over the last few years of adulthood. Two of the gentlemen in attendance held a seven hours Johnny Cash marathon on the ride back to Atlanta, complete with Live from Folsom Prison, American Recordings I-V, and I think one of the multitudes of his greatest hits collection. During this epic listening session of Cash, one of the fellows brought to the attention of another of the fellows that he had come into contact with a friend of a friend that was not versed in the ways of Cash, at all. This is obviously a travesty, even in the eyes of a day-to-day, casual, in passing acquaintance of Cash's music and catalog. (If you too are not versed in the House of Cash, please let us know, and we'll see if we can get you caught up to speed)

As a result of the discussion, and fueled by the 7-hour enduring Cash-athon, a one-disc, listener takes all, greatest hits compilation would be made for the unenlightened person of discussion in hopes of reversing their misfortune of ignorance and to fill a void that is certain to exist in their heart and and certainly in their soul.

Upon a group email to the core of the Cash-heads of the group, an invitation was extended for suggested tracks, or for a full disc's worth of Cash material: career encompassing. My first thought: It can't be done. My second thought: No way in hell. There's no way. No way to squeeze 50 years of music into less than 80 minutes of bliss. Yes, 80 minutes is easy. All encompassing for the non-believer, not so much. But nevertheless, we continued in the debate. A debate that is still going as a matter of fact. One that is at 60+ emails in a group of five or six great debaters. Individual songs were discussed and tossed around at first, then handfuls of the obvious, the not-so obvious and a few hidden jewels and gems of the Man in Black.

The taxing debate then turned to full on track listings of the mythical "perfect Cash collection". Everyone had a full list. Consequently, everyone had revisions, corrections, additions and subtractions after seeing other lists, and remembering that perfect song that they had forgotten during the first rounds of their official rough draft. Every era was included of course, and probably weighed heaviest on the American Recordings songs, as they seemed more likely to convert not only a Non-Cash fan, but a naysayer of country music altogether, due to the reasoning that if JC doesn't speak one's soul on the American songs, then no soul existed to begin with and the listener was destined for damnation anyways.

Some are wanting to make it the run of the mill, typical greatest hits disc with a few deeper cuts and not so familiar tunes. Some are wanting mostly obscure Sun tracks, a Columbia Records take or two and a few criers from the American series. Some have suggested a collection of all time periods, with equal representation from all time periods from the 1950s on through now, as there still seems to be "new" Cash material still popping up every year or so, even nearly 5 years after his death, Tupac and Biggie style.

As of today, this imaginary disc is still in the works. It's still a toss up. I have my track suggestions that I will review once more and will post tomorrow. If I remember correctly, I believe that it's at 24 tracks and right at the 80 minute threshold of a compact disc.

If you have a suggestion, please send it in. All eras of Cash are fair game; however, do not send in suggestions of "Ring of Fire", "Hurt", "Folsom Prison Blues", "Walk the Line" or any other JC song you'd hear at a frat party or on the radio. We already have them covered, and probably have discarded a few of them as deemed appropriate. Please note that this also includes "A Boy Named Sue".


This boundless task has been hard to nail down, my friend. And it will continue to be...