VARIOUS ARTISTS: Paid in Black—A Tribute to Johnny Cash: CD

There are likely hundreds of Johnny Cash tributes available and I have reviewed most of them. And, thankfully, this one passes muster with range of cohesive, agreeable, well-interpreted tracks that don’t stand next to each other like sixth graders at a snowball dance. With tracks moving from punk and psychobilly to rock and traditional and revival country, this is one of the more versatile tributes. The rollicking and spirited “Kneeling Drunkard’s Plea” by The Spookshow blissfully modernizes the Carter Family’s ageless four-part harmony, and The Ghoul’s “Cry, Cry, Cry” is a classic Austin-style singer/songwriter take. Great songs oft overlooked on Cash tributes are well-represented here, including “One Piece at a Time,” “Dark as a Dungeon,” and “Wanted Man.” I’m very pleased that The Bang Tale finally took seriously my open request to cover “Sunday Morning Coming Down”—and they did it well in an electrified-but-mellow ‘70s outlaw country style. Granted, there’s always the chance that some of these bands suck outside of this comp, but as far as Cash tributes go, this is my second-favorite (number one is Dressed in Black on Dualtone), despite the variances in production values on some tracks. 

 –thiringer (Wolverine)