Supposedly at odds with this country artist's image as the somber Man in Black, this collection of humorous songs actually isn't that much of a departure for Johnny Cash. Listeners who may have grown up during his days as a Top Ten artist will recall his steady stream of singles that always seemed to have a clever gimmick or catchy twist; why, some of those aren't even on this collection, meaning there ought to be a second volume! More than three decades later, Cash would release concept CDs collecting songs based around particular themes -- Love, God, and Murder -- so perhaps this album is a thematic link, or a theme he could return to. The songs are just basically nutty. If one could imagine a project combining Cash with the cartoon character Screwy Squirrel, then this would be it, meaning not all the material is in good taste all the time. There are some real choice roasted nuts here, especially the duet with Ramblin' Jack Elliot, in which for once it is OK that the performers get drunk while playing. There is no credit for Elliot in the original liner notes. Some of these songs were favorites of Cash, including "Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog," which, as a highlight of his career, he performed on The Muppet Show. Cash's sense of humor is really great, and although he certainly makes brilliant music when totally in a dark mood, there is something to be said for a project like this, where he gives free rein to that side of his personality that has always made him popular with children, for example. And incidentally, this album has proven to be a very popular item with younger listeners. Cash's romping, stomping buddy Jack Clement actually has a large hand in the proceedings, although one has to read the fine print on the label to know it. He wrote practically all the best songs, except for the hilarious "Please Don't Play Red River Valley," which is a request from the Man in Black himself.
AllMusic Review by Eugene Chadbourne
feat: Jack Elliott