Various Artists

Kindred Spirits: A Tribute to the Songs of Johnny Cash

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The second of two Johnny Cash tribute discs released in September 2002 (the other is Dressed in Black: A Tribute to Johnny Cash) brings out the big guns in terms of marquee talent. As the album's coordinator, musician Marty Stuart has the background and contacts to pull this project off. Any collection with previously unreleased tracks from Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Dwight Yoakam, Emmylou Harris, and Steve Earle has built in credibility. All the participants are enthusiastic and dedicated, but the most stirring tracks inject a different spin to the originals. Unfortunately there aren't enough of those. Stuart's version of "Hey Porter" is respectful but doesn't deviate enough from Cash's boom-chika rockabilly to make it worth the effort. Yoakam's "Understand Your Man" even keeps the mariachi trumpets that added such an offbeat sound to Cash's '60s work. Daughter Rosanne's version of "I Still Miss Someone" is tender but lacks punch, as does Springsteen's solo acoustic "Give My Love to Rose," which sounds like an outtake from Nebraska. Dylan's spoken intro to "Train of Love" thanks Cash for standing up for him "way back when" before launching into one of the most emotionally stirring performances on this album. Little Richard does his best "Long Tall Sally" with a rock'em sock'em "Get Rhythm," but his voice isn't what it used to be and the song ends up sounding more like a Richard tune than a Cash one. Much better is Keb' Mo', who slows down "Folsom Prison Blues" to an ominous, swamp/bluesy crawl. Travis Tritt successfully rearranges "I Walk the Line" into a slow but menacing honky tonk ballad similar to how George Jones might approach it. Though it's fraught with the best intentions and tries to deviate from the hits (where's "Ring of Fire"?), Kindred Spirits is disappointing because even with the high-profile talent, few add anything unique, enlightening, or inspirational to Cash's already timeless music.

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