One Piece at a Time

Johnny Cash

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One Piece at a Time Review

by Eugene Chadbourne

In the mid-'70s, Johnny Cash was holding his own against the onslaught of progressive rock, psychedelic rock, and intense funk that ruled the airwaves. The trademark shuffling twang of the Tennessee Three remained an attractive feel, unique and apparently impossible to copy, but there was more to it than that. His choice of subjects solidified the impression of him as an all-American mainstream type who happened to side with the hippies and hang out with Bob Dylan, a fact of great significance during this era, and which might have sustained Cash had he decided to begin performing on harpischord. His radio hit "One Piece at a Time" detailed a small victory in the common man's battle over corporate greed, and it certainly wasn't the only great song on this overlooked album. "Committed to Parkview" belongs to the unfortunately tiny genre of country songs about mental institutions, and might be the best of them all, seriously rivaling Faron Young's "Rubber Room." "Love Has Lost Again" is one of his bittersweet ballads along the lines of "I Still Miss Someone," while unpretentious numbers such as "Go on Blues" represent the type of music that slips sneakily into a listener's consciousness, staying for days. There are uncomfortable duds, sure, but sometimes instrumental touches manage to bring a song to life, whether it is the loudly mixed jaw harp on "Sold Out of Flagpoles" or the rubato harmonica on the relatively corny "Let There Be Country." "One Piece at a Time" was the work of the fine country songwriter Wayne Kemp, but much of the other good material on this recording comes from Cash himself.

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