Various Artists

Train of Love: A Tribute to Johnny Cash

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Country legend Johnny Cash made over 1,500 recordings in his lifetime (48 of which hit Billboard's Hot 100 pop chart) and his death in 2003 left a void that seems impossible to fill. Numerous tribute collections have appeared since his death, including this one in 2005 from CMH Records, and the reimaginings here of some of his trademark songs range from reverent to radical. The set opens with Laurie Lewis' fiddle-led version of "Train of Love," followed by a bustling take on "Hey Porter" by the DiMaggio Brothers, and things brighten considerably with Cod Express' instrumental "Tennessee Flat Top Box," which features guitars galore. Former MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer's mechanized, slightly spooky "One Piece at a Time" shifts the emphasis in the song from humor to retribution, and is a showstopper here, as are two eerie, atmospheric covers by Soda and His Million Piece Band, "Folsom Prison Blues" and "Ring of Fire," both of which focus on the desperation inherent at each song's center. Former AIM president Russell Means' spoken word "Ballad of Ira Hayes" is also memorable, more because of the choice of artist to song than for any other reason. In the end, Train of Love underscores just how much of a cultural chimera Cash really was, recording music that -- while cached as country -- transcended genres on its way to establishing a kind of pure Americana.

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