Single Review: Alan Jackson featuring Lee Ann Womack, “Ring of Fire”

I am not one who typically embraces extremes, but I must make an exception for Johnny Cash’s recording of “Ring of Fire.” It’s the definitive version; it’s an untouchable. Sure, some people have made valiant attempts, even changing things up so as not to try to mimic Cash, but make it their own, and I even like some of these other versions. None of these other efforts, however, has surpassed or even come close to touching Cash.

So, I implore, why even try when any other version will only be runners up at best, especially when recording it for a tribute album isn’t the excuse? Although only in my head, I’ve asked this question of excellent artists such as Pam Tillis, Dwight Yoakam, Ray Charles, along with odder choices like Social Distortion and Blondie. Alas, now, I must ask the same of Alan Jackson and his somewhat superfluous (meaning she doesn’t add to or detract from the recording) accomplice, Lee Ann Womack.

While Alan Jackson’s version is technically easy on the ears, therein lies the major problem with the recording. It’s too mellow, devoid of passion. Instead of the imperative fiery recording that Cash seamlessly gave us, his is frustratingly lackadaisical, even amidst a bouncy, though uninspired, production. Ultimately, he seems to miss the point of the song altogether, which is a shame because it’s the only previously unreleased song on his 34 Number Ones Hits package that is supposed to hold us over until his next studio album.

Written by June Carter & Merle Kilgore

Grade: C

Listen: Ring of Fire

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16 Comments

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16 Responses to Single Review: Alan Jackson featuring Lee Ann Womack, “Ring of Fire”

  1. Erik NorthNo Gravatar

    I might add that Linda Ronstadt recorded “Ring Of Fire” with Earl Scruggs for his 1971 album I Saw The Light With Some Help From My Friends; and she felt and sounded great doing the song. And hers was authentically country.

    But really, when you get down to it, Johnny’s original 1963 recording is all but completely untouchable because, as with basically everything the Man In Black ever did, he brings his own brooding persona and a signature gravitas to the piece. Artists like him are unlikely to ever be seen again in this business (IMHO).

  2. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar

    Can I say that I personally love the Carlene Carter version from 1980? It’s radically different but I’ve always thought it was cool.

    httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoyCRDTd18s

  3. Erik NorthNo Gravatar

    Well, she kept it in the family, that much. She’s right at home with it.

  4. Music ManNo Gravatar

    Mark Collie tried his hand at the song in the early 90s, not a total disapointment.

    It’s Johnny’s song his is the ulitmate version, it can’t be topped.

  5. KatieRNo Gravatar

    I grew up as a a huge Johnny Cash fan. Although I’m only 24, I listened to my father’s music, which was 60s and 70s country-rock, mostly. That said, I don’t think anyone can ever do justice to most of his songs, although, I will say, Joaquin Pheonix did a pretty good job, amazingly. As did Reese Whitherspoon.

  6. I have to agree with the “extreme” opinion. “Ring of Fire” is indeed untouchable. I think it would be near impossible to produce a good remake. If you don’t change it up, you’ll only be copying it; If you don’t copy it, you’ll probably just be ruining it.

    I’m afraid this record didn’t really do anything to change my mind.

  7. SeforaNo Gravatar

    I have to disagree….disagree strongly! I love Mrs. Lee Ann Womack on Alan’s version of Ring Of Fire. She does an amazing job. Her and Alan are two of my favs in country music and together they are pure heaven to all ears.

  8. I don’t think anybody means to take anything away from Lee Ann. It’s just that her vocals on this track aren’t featured prominently enough to really make the collaboration something special.

  9. StephanieNo Gravatar

    I am inclined to wonder why, out of the thousands of song there are to choose from, my Jackson chose this particular tune.

    Truth be told, I haven’t heard the track, so I reserve judgment for another time, but I’d very interested in hearing why he recorded this.

  10. Paul DennisNo Gravatar

    Folk toubadour Burl Ives recorded the song in the late 1960s and an album named after the song and a single were issued in the United Kingdom. I don’t recall the song being a hit although I heard it a few times on the BBC , but Burl’s version was very good and very different from other versions I’ve heard

  11. TomNo Gravatar

    …in the video clip, they should show aj in fire-fighter gear, holding a hose and making sure that the fire won’t get out of control.

  12. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar

    I like that video treatment.They don’t even have to bring Lee Ann Womack in to shoot the video. They can just use footage from “Ashes By Now.”

  13. “I like that video treatment.They don’t even have to bring Lee Ann Womack in to shoot the video. They can just use footage from “Ashes By Now.””

    Can’t stop laughing…that made my day! lolol

  14. Didn’t hurt my day either.:)

  15. I think Jackson turns in a solid performance on this song, and I enjoy hearing him sing with the bass in his voice. Like everybody else, I just find this kinda pointless, if somewhat enjoyable.

  16. Johnny Cash’s recording of “Ring of Fire” is the best among the rest. I would recommend it to everybody who loved the song.

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