“The Johnny Cash Roadshow” came to the Queen’s Hall tonight, and it was a really pleasant surprise for me. I am (like many people) familiar with the better known songs of Johnny Cash, but fall a long way short of knowing much of the music in his extensive back catalogue, and this show was a perfect introduction not only into the music of Johnny Cash, but also his “musical family”.
This show covers music from the first Sun record in 1955 (Cry Cry Cry) through to the end and also includes music of people closely associated with his sound – The Carter Sisters and of course June Carter (Johnny Cash’s second wife). For someone like myself not familiar with a few of the songs, nearly everything was performed with a little introduction of how and when it fitted into the Johnny Cash story.
The big surprise for me tonight though was just how many of these songs I knew. Yes, the big songs like “Ring of Fire”, “ I Walk The Line”, “Folsom Prison Blues”, “A Boy Named Sue” , “San Quentin” , “Man in Black” and “(Ghost) Riders in The Sky”, but I had forgotten songs like “Forty Shades of Green”, “Ballad of A Teenage Queen” and “Orange Blossom Special”
The Johnny Cash Roadshow itself consists of Clive John as Johnny Cash, Jill Schoonjans (June Carter), The Carter Sisters (Amanda Stone and Louise Masters) plus a really tight band – Nick Davis (guitars and backing vocals), Martin Bentley (upright and electric bass) and Darren Barzzoni (Drums).
Clive John is a very good Johnny Cash soundalike, but like the best of tribute acts out there, has a genuine love of this music and shares that with his audience. This is also very clearly Clive John on stage and not Johnny Cash – that fine line is never crossed, and I left this show having enjoyed listening to Clive playing Johnny Cash music and recreating wonderfully that musical sound,and NOT Clive pretending to be Johnny Cash.
Jill Schoonjans is very good as June Carter and also makes a great partner on stage for Clive. They both work very tightly together on the duets and there is more than enough on stage chemistry between them both to re-create some of the famous “Cash & Carter” partnership, and unless you can do that, a show like this just will not work.
There were some nice musical surprises in this show too – some Kris Kristofferson songs –“Sunday Mornin’ Comin Down” and the wonderful “Help Me Make It Through The Night”. Also, a nice gospel cover of “Peace In The Valley” and a few novelty songs including “One Piece At A Time”.
Also nice to see in this show was a short musical tribute to The Staler Brothers who toured for some years with johnny Cash.
A big favourite of mine for this show too was the acoustic bass playing of Martin Bentley. That rockabilly bass rhythm on some of the earlier material just illustrates to me how close country and rock n roll/rockabilly can be at times and what a common route they share. Johnny Cash wrote more than a few songs about railroads, and I often see his country style being one track and the music of Elvis being the other...they share the same origins and often cross over. Also running right down the middle between those tracks (often not that easily seen) is gospel music. The musical roots are the same and this is always to me why those original pioneers like Johnny Cash, Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis could so effortlessly move between Rock n Roll, country and Gospel sounds. All of these sounds and styles are covered here in this show and done in great style.
This show also brings into focus what an amazing song writer Johnny Cash was. He had an eye for the everyday details of people’s lives and surroundings and the ability to put that down in words and music.
The Johnny Cash Roadshow is also at The Brunton in Musselburgh on Sunday 22nd November, so if you missed this show (or just want to catch it again) here is your chance.
If you want more information on the show and people in it, visit http://www.johnnycashroadshow.com/
Review by Tom King