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Josh Hurst

Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash's Bitter Tears Revisited

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This full-length reimagining of the classic Johnny Cash album was produced by Joe Henry, and features Gillian Welch, Dave Rawlings, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Milk Carton Kids, and more. The house band includes-- well, you know: The usual Joe Henry crew, which is a very good thing.

 

Full details here. Out August 19.

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I can now attest that this record is as heavy and as beautifully rendered as we've all been hoping-- more than justifying its own existence. As with the original Johnny Cash album, it's a pretty sobering affair, and it seems unerringly devoted to truth and justice, but also to Song as a means of change, both personal and cultural.

 

And heavy though it may be, the album is also exhilarating-- especially on the epic, harmony laden opener (9 minutes of magic from Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings), the heartbreaking songs from Norman Blake and Kris Kristofferson, and Steve Earle's take on "Custer"-- which is, dare I say, a great deal of fun, with some killer drum fills from Jay Bellerose.

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The aforementioned Steve Earle song is available to buy on iTunes now, for anyone who wants a taste of this-- and I'll say it again: The song is really pretty exhilarating, and great fun despite heavy subject matter.

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One more, and then I'll stop talking to myself: "As Long as the Grass Shall Grow"-- the epic, scene-setting opener, performed by Welch/Rawlings-- is streaming here.

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I still need to buy the new James Farm CD, and I've got a gift card with just under $20 on it. Barnes & Noble is having a buy-one-get-one-for-50%-off sale on select titles, and both the James Farm and this are included selections. I think the pricing will work out, so I'll give this one a shot.

 

Sorry, War on Drugs: I almost bought you, but Johnny Cash/Joe Henry won out.

 

EDIT: #$#%%%!! I misread the promotion. I'll figure out a way to get this, though.

Edited by Christian

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James Farm will have to wait -- it wasn't part of the BN.com deal -- but Regina Carter's latest was part of the deal, so I just bought that along with Look Again to the Wind.

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heavy though it may be, the album is also exhilarating-- especially on the epic, harmony laden opener (9 minutes of magic from Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings), the heartbreaking songs from Norman Blake and Kris Kristofferson, and Steve Earle's take on "Custer"-- which is, dare I say, a great deal of fun, with some killer drum fills from Jay Bellerose.

 

 

I look forward to hearing your impressions of it, Christian!

I don't know that I've really formed a concrete opinion about the staying power of the full album, but based on four or five listens, I agree with you that, at the least, this is a very fine collection. I don't think I've ever heard the entire original album -- only the Ira Hayes song -- but the production here is very nice. I think it was Jeffrey who had posted words to the effect that this is a pretty good Gillian Welch album while we're waiting for new material from her. At the time I saw his post, I had known of David Rawlings' involvement, but for some reason it wasn't clear to me that we'd be getting a few Gillian vocal tracks. These songs seem to perfectly fit her voice, so recruiting her is a master stroke by Henry, as obvious as it might seem in retrospect.

 

As good as the Gillian vocals are, I'd agree that the Earle song is a standout. Last time I listened, I also was was quite taken with the Rhiannon Giddens vocal. I'm not head over heels about her solo album or earlier work, so it may be that her singing on this album proves a gateway of sorts to a deeper appreciation of her other work. 

Edited by Christian

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Been listening to this one again in the past week, and that Giddens vocal keeps rising in my estimation.

 

Speaking of which, she was in town last week, and the Washington Post reviewed the show.

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