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Live From Austin Tx
180 gram, Live
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Reissue of this classic live performance from the Country/Rock legend, originally taped for the Austin City Limits series in 1987. This release contains a stunning collection of his hits all performed in an intimate setting along with June Carter Cash and Johnny's long-time backing band.
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Well, I was wrong to wait. Be warned -- if you buy this CD, you may never take if off your CD player. The reviewer who wrote this doesn't measure up to the classic live records "AFP" and "San Quentin" was wrong. The only negative comparison I can make to those two is the comparison of the raucus prison audiences, and Cash's inimitable banter, with the sedate Chardonnay, and doubtless well-edited, Austin crowd. But it is OK. It all works. Because the songs, the performances, and the production are perfect. "Live from Austin" is now ascended to the top of my "Records to Take to a Desert Island" list.
What great songs! And they are matched measure for measure by Cash's peerless phrasing and the silky, gruff, bass and baritone of the richest voice in music. Cash balances masterful performances of his own classics with reprises of great songs of other great writers. The cuts of Cash's own "Ring of Fire," "Folsom Prison Blues", "I Walk the Line", and "Big River" found here are as good, or better, than any other version you will listen to. He honors -- truly honors -- fellow hall of famers Kris Kristofferson ("Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down"), Guy Clark ("Let Him Roll") and John Prine ("Sam Stone") with brilliant interpretations and great voice to go with a perfect little Texas stage band. The list goes on from there, however, with memorable great songs from somewhat less accomplished writers (Marijohn Wilkin's "Long Black Veil," Tom Hall's "I'll Go Somewhere and Sing My Songs Again," and Stan Jones's classic "Riders in the Sky" have never been sung better. And -- critically, for me -- the absence of "Jackson" compared to "AFP" is (nearly) made up for by John and June's heavenly cut of Don Schlitz and Dave Loggins's "Where Did We Go Right?".
If anyone doubts that Johnny Cash is the greatest singer-songwriter, and performer, America has produced he or she will change their mind when they hear this record. It is all here. Johnny survived the pills, the pain, the Starkville jail, and even 1970's television. He came through it all with grace, style, and a huge talent for creating unforgettable, and inimitable, music from the simplest elements. "Live from Austin" has it all. As Terry Lickona writes in the liner notes, "God bless you, Johnny Cash."
With guitarist Jim Soldi and trumpet / keyboard player Bob Lewin behind him, Johnny Cash gave a top-notch performance that evening. I'm playing the CD without a break for three weeks now and I'm not tired of it; in my completely subjective scale of values, that means only one thing: this CD is indispendable. Period.
A CD for your library.
This record is a testament to his skills onstage and as a song interpreter, which we know from the American Recordings. The pacing is crisp but rich, wonderful asides to introduce the songs, the performances spectacular in their modest Cash manner, and the song choices flow toward the redemptive--at least for those of us who will heed the cautionary tales. This is a cleansing, cathartic set that anyone, familiar or not with Cash's history, will tumble headlong into. He's got a harness on melodic and rhythmic shifts that can only come from a lifetime of introspection.
Maybe someone someday will come along with Cash's absolute integrity and talent, but I'd not put money on it. He's one for the ages, like Shakespeare or Li Po or Dante or Cervantes. And since we're not going to be around long enough to produce another in his league, savor this now. Check your thermometer. Viva, Johnny! See you soon.