I cannot say for most of my life that I really listened to, or was a fan of Johnny Cash. Somewhere I knew he was the “man in black” and had done a concert inside a prison. But I chalked him up to country music (like Jake and Elwood said, “yep, we got both kinds of music- country and western”).
It was really after the NMC 2006 Summer Conference in Cleveland, at the Rock n Roll Museum jam session when Tim Svenonius from SFMOMA did the spot on cover of Folsum Prison Blues, that I cam home and spent some time combing through some Cash originals on the iTunes Music Store, and found myself buying a bunch of them… finding the basic down home early rock sounds I’ve always been drawn too. I found some incredible songs I liked from his late in career Unchained album.
In particular, the raw sound of “Rusty Cage” got me listening repeatedly- or even watching:
And even more impressive, this is a cover song, and some covers are rather thin re-castings of a song, this is a complete new and powerful interpretation of the original by Soundgarden.
Listening to the chords, I pulled out the very dusty guitar and found a rather simple, yet not too simple, but easily identifiable pattern — confirmed and expanded by the guitar tab I found (where was the web and online tabs when I was 16???). Yet, while the guitar riff was almost pulled off, could in no way find the balance to get the lyrics on pattern. Yet the version by Cash makes it sound easy.
This is a long way roundabout to recognize the mastery in doing original “covers” by going beyond a slight copy, but making it something new. And after a long road, I am now a Johnny Cash fan, both country and western.