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Album Reviews

In this section of the site Johnny Cash albums, as well as other related albums, are reviewed. 

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W.S. Holland, Johnny Cash’s only drummer, is an individual who needs no introduction.  There are many stories on how Johnny Cash managed to snatch W.S. Holland from Carl Perkins’ band, though as W.S. “Fluke” Holland explains it, there was really nothing dramatic behind the ordeal--he was ready to retire at the end of the 1950s, but Johnny Cash wanted a particular drummer and was persistent enough to keep W.S. with him for 37 years on the road, up until Cash’s retirement.

 

Of course, W.S. Holland remains on the road, and that very fact makes his latest album, LIVE in Memphis, something unique. 

 

This album was not a rushed release when it arrived in 2014, five years after the W.S. Holland Band’s formation in 2009, nor could it be in more capable hands.   Ron Haney, who manages the operation, is responsible for vocals and guitar, and Russ “Newt” Hall handles keyboards while Jim Reece provides the bass guitar work and vocals.  After five years of touring around the world--literally--the band decided that it was time for an album.  Instead of cutting songs in the studio however, they opted to go for a raw and authentic sound--and what better place to go than Memphis, where W.S. Holland helped pioneer rock and roll music.

 

The replication of Carl Perkins, his voice and sound, it spot on.  The twelve-minute homage to the music of Johnny Cash is handled with equal care, though as we all know, replicating Cash is impossible.  Nonetheless, Johnny Counterfit’s vocals are about as close as any impersonator gets (even Cash was impressed by Counterfit, in his lifetime).  The band provides a flawless rendition of the rockabilly and country sound that supplemented the original songs.

 

The dialogue between tracks by Holland is one of the best treats.  Holland recounts memories of his days at Sun and on the road with Johnny, and even manages to slip in his own solo piece, “Drum Time.”  The other original tune is a the tribute to Johnny Cash--but considering how W.S. Holland played on these song sessions originally, one can make the argument that the majority of music here is simply classic W.S. Holland.

 

To check out more about W.S. Holland and his band, and to purchase a copy of his latest CD, visit his official website.

 

  1. Rockabilly Fever
  2. Let the Good Times Roll
  3. Blue Suede Shoes
  4. Matchbox
  5. Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On
  6. The Legend (Tribute to Johnny Cash) and Cash Medley (Folsom Prison Blues, A Boy Named Sue, Ring of Fire, I Walk the Line)
  7. Ragged Old Flag
  8. Drum Time
  9. Everybody’s Tryin’ to be My Baby

 

Runtime: 41 minutes

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Note: This review was written not long after attending the 82nd Johnny Cash Birthday Celebration in February of 2014.  It is being published now for those who couldn’t make it out last year, but are going this year, or considering making the trip.

 

I wrote a review on the Johnny Cash Museum several months ago, but it hardly needs my endorsement at this point.  Any trip advisor will tell you that it is well-worth the trek to Nashville and houses the largest collection of Johnny Cash material.  But the price of admission for the birthday celebration included limitless weekend access to the Johnny Cash Museum, so it is worth mentioning here.  

   

For a discount price, I stayed at the Hyatt Place hotel, which was only a five minute walk from the museum. (It also featured a very cool pixel picture of Cash in the foyer--take a picture of it with your cell phone if you make it out there.)  Attached to the museum is a Johnny Cash event center where the concerts and other programs were held.  The event room itself has a Facebook page--suffice to say, it was both classy and rugged, like the Man in Black himself.  There were two concerts, one on Friday and the other on Saturday night, and each featured a different host of guest singers.

   

Friday evening, before the first show, I arrived early--and W.S. Holland and his wife Joyce were hanging out.  It was surreal--here was W.S. Holland, casually relaxing in a sweater, an hour before showtime--and he was talking to me!  A little under an hour later, I sat in the audience and saw him take the stage in his black suit and dark shades.  Surreal.  And he was joined by the legendary Dave Roe.  Then, John Carter Cash took center position and the band rocked out a number of Johnny Cash songs--including “Big River”--and a few Carter Family songs.  W.S. Holland also treated us to a few numbers, including a tribute song called “The Legend.”  Need I tell you who it was about?  Later on, Lorrie Davis Bennett--a genuine member of the Carter Family, showcased some Carter classics, including the great--and endless--”Worried Man Blues” and she gave a superb performance of The Youngblood’s “Get Together.”  Cash recorded both songs on his TV show.

   

Before the second concert some games and activities were prepared--I understand they are a tradition.  There were some rounds of trivia and prices given--though it was just great to be surrounded by other Cashologists.  Mark Stielper, a Cash historian, gave a behind-the-scenes presentation over Cash’s TV series and rise to American icon.  Then there was the fan jam--and there should probably be a new show called “Johnny Cash Fans Got Talent.”  The only sour performance, in fact, was my own.  But the backing band was phenomenal. Then Bill Miller, founder of the museum and host for the party, announced the raffle winners.  There were prizes, big and small--from greatest hits CDs to vinyl 45s, from posters to license plates, from Johnny Cash trading cards to three checks hand-signed by Johnny Cash.  Pretty cool, don’t you think?

   

The second night’s lineup included God’s Outlaw, who got everyone involved in the great song “Stampede,” as well as a few original numbers by Johnny’s nephew Joe Cash and some gospel tunes by Johnny’s sister Joanne.  Tommy Cash--who I’ve been lucky enough to see twice before--also delivered on many Cash classics as well as his own “Six White Horses” and the most charismatic performance of “That’s Alright, Mama” that I’ve ever seen--sorry, Elvis!  Then Melanie took the stage to perform several of her own hits, including a more recent song “Working Legend,” which pays tribute to the Man in Black.

 

It was a fun trip, and needless to say, there is a lot to do in Nashville--or Cashville, as some now call it--and attending birthday celebration was a great experience.  

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We were very pleased to receive the album 'Cash Cover With Attitude' from the guys of 'Johnny Horsepower', the Cash tribute band from Copenhagen, Denmark. The band was formed in 2009 to pay tribute to the young and rebellious Johnny Cash. Notes on their album say 'The reason was and stilll is a profound passion for the '50s Johnny Cash & The Tennessee Two.' You definitely get that experience when listening to the album.

 

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Earl Poole Ball’s most recent CD release, appropriately called Pianography, offers a little bit of everything.  There are studio tracks and live tracks, new songs and old songs, and a healthy mixture of country, blues, rockabilly and genuine honky-tonk.  

 

After officially joining Johnny Cash’s band in 1976, upon Johnny’s insistence, Earl Poole Ball remained a regular member of Cash’s band until Cash retired from touring in 1997.  Of course, Earl had previously worked with Gram Parsons and Merle Haggard before accompanying Johnny Cash.  He could have easily made an album of standards from the stars that he spent so much time with.

 

Instead, what we have is a refreshingly original album that is independent, or indie, in the truest sense of the word.  The Austin-based Earl rounded up the local talent that he was working with, and set about recording some songs written by old friends, and as well as many self-penned titles.  In some ways, the album is autobiographical.  No song is reflective though than the travelogue title track, “Pianography,” that recounts Earl’s trek from California, to Nashville, to his current Austin residence.

 

“The Real Me” is an upbeat tune that is very much the open confession of an optimist, while “Standing At the Edge of the World” is genuine rockabilly, with with catchy lyrics and an equally catchy, whistling chorus.  

 

Perhaps no song better embodies the honky-tonk feel than “Say You Love Me,” a duet with Cindy Cashdollar that concludes with a tuba, a trumpet, and an authentic Dixie Band vibe.  “One of Those Old Things” is a mournful country tune, complete with fiddle, and sounds like it could have been written for Johnny Cash himself.   

 

“Sing It Boy” takes a comedic turn, as a bona fide bluesman laments the sorrow of the singing boy’s blues.  The last new studio track, “Something’s Gonna Get Us All,” has a dark and brooding instrumental arrangement, similar to Cash’s “Ain’t No Grave,” but chooses to laugh in the face of mortality and fate.

 

The second half of the CD is comprised mostly of live tracks, recorded at a Johnny Cash tribute concert.  With classics like “Big River,” “Down the Line,” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” and “Mean Women Blues,” we’re treated to a blend of rock and country.  While the first half of the CD is notable for the strong arrangements and instrumentals, the live segment really showcases Earl Poole Ball’s famous piano.  

 

The final two tracks are essentially bonus tracks.  Both were previously recorded and released as singles many years ago, and withstand the test of time.  “Second and San Antone” is recorded as an up-tempo rock ‘n’ roll track, while “Flowers on Papa’s Grave,” is a standard country rendition, with backup vocals and a steel guitar, adding one more unique track to the album.

 

Pianography is the real deal in a music market saturated with knock offs.  The music is a blend of so many styles that it can only be broadly classified as Americana.

 

You can buy the CD or purchase a digital copy of the album by following the link below.

 

http://www.earlpooleball.com/discography.html

 

You can also watch Earl Poole Ball perform the cut of “Big River” from the album live!

 

http://youtu.be/5XbU5qg_WrE

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