June Carter Cash
June Carter Cash was far more than just the woman who hovered, angel-like, over Johnny Cash in his “Hurt” video. She was a member of the most important family in American music history, was a gifted songwriter (“Ring of Fire,” for one), a great vocalist and entertainer and, hell, she kept Johnny Cash alive for decades. She started out as a singing comedic sidekick to the great Carter Family, moving from there into movies and radio until she met up with the man in black. Throughout her life, June’s bedrock goodness, honesty and openness shone like a beacon onto every aspect of her life. This final record, based largely on the songs of her uncle, A.P. Carter, is a beautiful goodbye song from June to a world that loved her. Produced by Johnny Cash and performed by a stellar cast of pickers including Norman Blake and Marty Stuart, the record contains classics such as “Keep on the Sunny Side,” “Storms Are on the Ocean” and the aching “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone.” The songs are relaxed, June and Johnny’s voices mingle as one, and moments from Little Junie and the Carter Girls segue the songs together.
The loss of June and Johnny, as well as Waylon Jennings, in such a short span of time doesn’t bode well for the state of country music. Although it could be argued that Cash, Jennings and others of that era had little to do with contemporary county music (thank God, I say), just knowing they were around kept the standards up. And as reaction to “Hurt” proved, Johnny Cash could still resonate, in a large way, with listeners’ ears. He primarily learned to do that from a woman, and her family, that he cherished to his dying day. And as a final gift to her — and to us — he made this record.
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