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Blood Sweat And Tears  

Johnny Cash is a renowned master interpreter of that most deceptively “simply” form of song, the folk ballad. Intensity of passion and dedication of spirit are keystone upon which Johnny builds unforgettable performances to capture your imagination and stir your emotions. In his newest album, he offers a rich collection of kind of songs aptly implied by the title he has chosen for it. “Blood, seat And Tears” contains ballads about hard rock resisting hard muscle, ballads of hard heads times, hard heads and hard hearts.

Johnny devotes most of the album’s first side of a positively electrifying performance of “The Legend Of John Henry’s Hammer” This celebrated ballad tells what happened to giant of steel driver who could out-drill any man on the job. John Henry is tormented by a mine boss (“Give me enough coal to start another Hell” )  challenged  by the newly invented automatic steam drill, but he goes to his death gloriously defying both. “I’ll die with my hammer in my hand (but I’ll be laughing’)” Johnny sings, “ cause you can’t replace a steel-driven man”.

After Johnny’s moving “Tell Him I’m Gone” he sings “Another Man Done Gone” a ballad about the grim fate of an escaped convict “He had A Long Chain On” Although it is spare of words, the song does tell us that he was captured and hanged before witnesses, his children among.

Harlen Howard’s song Busted, is unusual in that it concerns the dire circumstances of a down-and-outer, but it treats them in a half-humorous, almost philosophically cheerful way. Until near end, that is, Johnny changes his approach to the song when he sings, “a man can go wrong when he’s busted…. Where I’ll make a livin’ the lord knows”.

The “brave engineer” Casey Jones was, of course, a real-life figure. A handsome, robust Irishman, he became an engineer in his mid-twenties. Ballad versions vary and embellish details of his spectacular story. Actually, Casey’s run was on the   Cannonball Express traveling between Memphis, Tennessee and Canton Mississippi. In the early morning hours of April 30, 1906, about ten miles north of Canton, Casey and his fireman Sim webb roared around an S-curve right into the rear of another train. Viewed simply as a chronicle of events, Casey Jones is one of the world’s most exciting ballads. But it is at the same time a compelling argument for the inevitability of fate. From the very beginning of Johnny cash’s version with its eerie whippoorwill-like train whistle, know that Casey is doomed. As Johnny points out, his orders that morning said, in effect, that Casey was “taking a trip to the promise land”

Nine-Pound Hammer  (“When I’m long gone, make my tombstone out of number nine coal”)  “Chain Gang” and “Waiting For the Train” tell their own stories Johnny’s album concludes  on a lighter note, however, with Sheb Wooley’s  delightful song about a brawny character who can brag, “But now, “layin pip is ha-a-ard “labor” He was born to be a “Roughneck”.

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Vinyl LP -Columbia CS - 8730   1963
Available On CD
No Longer Available New ! On Vinyl

 

 

Revised: September 03, 2007

 

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