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DVD Review: Johnny Cash’s America

Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash’s America

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In a time when the United States is at its most divided, the release of the new documentary Johnny Cash’s America explores the transcendent country singer and his influence on an increasingly alienated nation.

As the voice for the underprivileged and an advocate for the underrepresented, Cash continued to cross boundaries of social status up until his death in 2003. During his lifetime, Cash gained the respect of every sitting President, and he was a frequent visitor at the White House, proving his ability to be a bipartisan champion for people’s rights. His unlikely leadership among the marginalized fringes of society was a testament to his humble, honest spirit and his comprehension of human suffering. Johnny Cash’s America perfectly depicts how the man was far greater than the music he created through its stunning visual images and countless interviews with colleagues on both sides of the political aisle.

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DVD Reviews: Marty Robbins, Legendary Performances; Tammy Wynette, Legendary Performances

Marty Robbins
Legendary Performances

Tammy Wynette
Legendary Performances

In coordination with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Shout Factory! has begun a new series of country music DVDs that collect archived performances of the genre’s legends, coupled with rare interview footage and Hall of Fame inductions.   The promise of this series cannot be overstated, both for fans of the artists profiled and the need for country music’s legacy to be preserved.

Both of the debut entries in the series follow the same format.   Fifteen performance clips from old television shows are arranged chronologically, and provide the bulk of each set’s content.    The defining singles of both artists are included, and in watching the clips, viewers can get a sense of how each artist developed, along with a fascinating window into how country music itself was presented on television over the course of four decades.

For a variety of reasons, the Marty Robbins collection is the stronger of the two.   Since his career dates back to the fifties, we’re treated to four performances from Country Style USA, one of the earliest country music television programs.  As we transition into the age of color television, we’re treated to a stunning performance of “My Woman, My Woman, My Wife” from the 1970 CMA Awards.    As the liner notes point out, Robbins penned the song in the hospital while recovering from his first heart attack.   In one of many appearances on these two collections by other country legends, Tennessee Ernie Ford gives a classy introduction that precedes the performance.

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DVD Review: Alison Krauss, A Hundred Miles or More: Live From the Tracking Room

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uss-dvd.jpg” alt=”” width=”186″ height=”186″ />Alison Krauss
A Hundred Miles or More: Live From the Tracking Room

The teens and tweens have their Taylor Swift, but for the most discerning music aficionados, Alison Krauss is our Cinderella story. Through the sheer force of a talent both prodigious and boundless, she has become a music icon, despite recording for an independent label and having nary a handful of radio hits to her credit. She’s so well-respected that there’s never a shortage of credible artists who are looking to work with her, and on her new DVD, A Hundred Miles or More: Live From the Tracking Room, it’s quickly apparent just how deep their affection for Krauss is.

Through a series of interviews interspersed with stripped-down musical performances, they testify. James Taylor describes her singing as “hot chocolate on top of vanilla ice cream.” Brad Paisley praises her as “the epitome of what the female voice sounds like,” and declares that if he gets to heaven and the angels don’t sound as good as her, he’s going to ask to come back. Tony Rice bristles with pride that he’s one of her primary influences. John Waite is “just proud to be part of Alison’s world”, crediting her for elevating “Missing You” far beyond its origins.

The contrast between their effusive praise and Krauss’ commentary, where she giggles like a starstruck schoolgirl, is remarkable to watch. But she also reveals the thought process that goes into her recording of material that could be horrifically maudlin in lesser hands. This DVD was originally a television special for promotion of the compilation A Hundred Miles or More, and in my review of that album, I noted how uniformly strong the new tracks were. They walk a fine line between dark and depressing, and Krauss’ interviews here shed some light on how she was able to bring some hope to her performances of them.

The DVD itself is sparse, featuring only nine performances, but each one included is worth the time of even casual Krauss fans. I believe that “Jacob’s Dream”, “Away Down the River” and “Simple Love” rank among the very best Krauss recordings ever, and they are the highlights of this set, though it will probably receive more attention for the collaborations with Taylor, Paisley, Rice and Waite.

It would’ve been nice to see the content significantly expanded from the original television special, and it’s baffling that there is so little information included about the musicians backing her. Still, it was classy of Great American Country to allow this material to be released, as it documents a talent for the ages in what may be the peak of her career.

Video Stream: Alison Krauss & Tony Rice, “Shadows”
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Alison Krauss
A Hundred Miles or More: Live From the Tracking Room

The teens and tweens have their Taylor Swift, but for the most discerning music aficionados, Alison Krauss is our Cinderella story. Through the sheer force of a talent both prodigious and boundless, she has become a music icon, despite recording for an independent label and having nary a handful of radio hits to her credit. She’s so well-respected that there’s never a shortage of credible artists who are looking to work with her, and on her new DVD, A Hundred Miles or More: Live From the Tracking Room, it’s quickly apparent just how deep their affection for Krauss is.
Through a series of interviews interspersed with stripped-down musical performances, they testify. James Taylor describes her singing as “hot chocolate on top of vanilla ice cream.” Brad Paisley praises her as “the epitome of what the female voice sounds like,” and declares that if he gets to heaven and the angels don’t sound as good as her, he’s going to ask to come back. Tony Rice bristles with pride that he’s one of her primary influences. John Waite is “just proud to be part of Alison’s world”, crediting her for elevating “Missing You” far beyond its origins.
The contrast between their effusive praise and Krauss’ commentary, where she giggles like a starstruck schoolgirl, is remarkable to watch. But she also reveals the thought process that goes into her recording of material that could be horrifically maudlin in lesser hands. This DVD was originally a television special for promotion of the compilation A Hundred Miles or More, and in my review of that album, I noted how uniformly strong the new tracks were. They walk a fine line between dark and depressing, and Krauss’ interviews here shed some light on how she was able to bring some hope to her performances of them.
The DVD itself is sparse, featuring only nine performances, but each one included is worth the time of even casual Krauss fans. I believe that “Jacob’s Dream”, “Away Down the River” and “Simple Love” rank among the very best Krauss recordings ever, and they are the highlights of this set, though it will probably receive more attention for the collaborations with Taylor, Paisley, Rice and Waite.
It would’ve been nice to see the content significantly expanded from the original television special, and it’s baffling that there is so little information included about the musicians backing her. Still, it was classy of Great American Country to allow this material to be released, as it documents a talent for the ages in what may be the peak of her career.
Video Stream: Alison Krauss & Tony Rice, “Shadows”
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