In May 2007, I attended an off-Broadway show in New York City, and three guitarists performed beforehand. The first two guitarists-and the show for that matter-aren’t worth a mention, but the third performer definitely is. He came on stage with his guitar, a buddy on bass, and confidence. I didn’t buy his CD at the time, but after the show, the bartender was playing it. I listened for a while and thought, “I like this guy a lot more now.”
That guitarist was Jesse Johnson. Listening to his CD now, I can hear and feel his soulfulness once again. Cause and Effect is a well-crafted album; every song is worth repeated listens. This guy is funky. He can sing as sweetly and can play guitar and keys as well as those who have inspired him – Prince, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Benet.
Fine, Spread the Love and Blue give this album a very strong start. Johnson mixes R&B, rock, and funk seamlessly. Blue is the funkiest of the trio with extra bass guitar.
You and Me slows things down a bit. Begging for a second chance without any sappy lyrics, his falsetto voice-lead and background-is quite effective here. Higher and Thank You are also on the R&B, slower side of the spectrum. Gone and Empty are other tunes that stand out on Cause and Effect.
Except for a guest pianist on Gone, Johnson is the sole musician and vocalist on this album – a one-man show, like Prince. As producer, arranger, and composer of Cause and Effect, Johnson does an extraordinary job on this debut. A promising career is hopefully in the future for this young man of numerous talents.
Andréa Burns, the Drama Desk Award-winner for her portrayal as Daniela in the off-Broadway show, In the Heights, gives a grand performance on her debut album, A Deeper Shade of Red . On this album, Burns takes on Broadway and pop standards. Burns’ versatility as a singer, along with her sense of fun and passion, shines through on all these songs.
From Broadway: What More Do I Need? from Saturday Night, a charming take on A Little Brains, A Little Talent from Damn Yankees, Love Quiz from It’s Only Life, Out Here on My Own from Fame, and I Have a Love from West Side Story. Of these, A Little Brains, A Little Talent, Out Here On My Own, and I Have a Love stand out.
Burns’ interprets Melissa Manchester’s Through The Eyes of Grace. Her voice is strong and her performance is quite touching. It’s one of the highlights of A Deeper Shade of Red. Joni Mitchell’s Chelsea Morning gets coverage here as well. While it’s been done many times, Burns adds a special touch to Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s Up On The Roof. Kate Bush’s Man With the Child in His Eyes is seamlessly combined with Something Wonderful from The King and I.
Burns’ humor shines the brightest on BTW, Write Back, a struggling actress’ obsession with a Broadway star from her hometown. Musically too, it varies from the other compositions. Its Latin rhythms give it lots of sass, a quality possessed by Burns as well.A Deeper Shade of Red is a wonderful debut by a star, who has a bright future ahead. The variety of selections on this album gives the listener a taste of Andréa Burns’ many talents.
I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down, for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime, for the sick and lonely old.
I wear the black in mournin’ for the lives that could have been, for the thousands who have died believin’ that the Lord was on their side. I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died believin’ that we all were on their side.
Well, there’s things that never will be right I know, and things need changin’ everywhere you go. But ’til we start to make a move to make a few things right, you’ll never see me wear a suit of white.
Much of Johnny Cash’s music, like Man in Black quoted above, had a somber tone and echoed themes of sorrow, distress, and redemption. His signature songs include I Walk The Line, Folsom Prison Blues, and Ring of Fire. Some of his more light-hearted tunes include A Boy Named Sue and One Piece at a Time. Many of Cash’s songs had the rhythm of the railroad: Big River, Train of Love, and Orange Blossom Special are among them.
From his early days as a pioneer of rockability and rock and roll, along side Elvis Presley, in the 50s to his decades as a country music star and becoming a legend in his time, Cash has been a constant musical influence throughout the years. He left a body of work matched only by the greatest artists of his time who are still alive today. He sold over fifty million albums and composed over a thousand songs n his fifty-year career.
By the early 1970s, he had set his public image as “The Man in Black.” He regularly performed dressed all in black, wearing a long black knee-length coat. This outfit was a great contrast to the cowboy boots and rhinestones of the major country stars of his day. In 1971, Cash wrote Man in Black to help explain his decision to do so throughout most of his career.
Johnny Cash performances:
Jackson (with June Carter Cash)
It Ain’t Me Babe (with June Carter Cash)
- Any Best Of compilation will be an introduction to those who aren’t familiar with Johnny Cash and include several of the songs mentioned above.
- The American series has Cash covering more modern tunes: Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus, Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt, and Moby’s God’s Gonna Cut you Down are among them.
- Unearthed, a box set was issued posthumously, and it included four CDs of unreleased material, as well as a Best of Cash on American retrospective CD.
For the celebrity-drenched video, click here God’s Gonna Cut You Down.
To tune in to Johnny Cash Radio, go to http://www.johnnycash.com
Reba McEntire’s 31st album, Reba Duets brings together artists from all sides of the musical spectrum. Country, pop, and rock talents join in the celebration of Reba’s versatile career. While all these singers are successful on their own, it’s Reba’s show, and it’s her distinct, powerful voice that shines brighter than the stars accompanying her. And that’s the way it should be. It’s no surprise that Reba Duets hit #1 upon its release. Perhaps it’s because she doesn’t give in to changing singing styles to accommodate various singing partners. Reba is country, and so is this album.
Let’s start with the ladies. The strong opener, When You Love Someone Like That, pairs Reba with LeAnn Rimes. These two extraordinary voices harmonize perfectly in this soft country song that tells of heartbreak. The steel and electric guitars add a nice touch. Two women following in the footsteps of Reba and doing very well: Trisha Yearwood and Faith Hill give it their all. She Can’t Save Him and Sleeping With The Telephone are wonderful, musically and lyrically. These three queens of country should team up more often. Another woman who holds her own is Kelly Clarkson. Clarkson composed Because of You, and it offers a nice pop country feel to the album. Both women give a passionate performance. Miss Clarkson should be very proud of her work, because her song really does stand out in this collection. While this listener has the utmost respect for Carole King, Everyday People just doesn’t cut it. It’s a feel-good type of song, but the chorus does very little to inspire. For this occasion, perhaps Ms. King should have taken to playing the piano or composing a song – two things she does so very well.
Reba and some of her male colleagues of country team up on Reba Duets. Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, and Ronnie Dunn of Brooks and Dunn, perform on Faith in Love, Every Other Weekend, and Does the Wind Still Blow In Oklahoma? respectively. Unfortunately, only the third one makes a mark. Ronnie Dunn co-wrote Does the Wind Still Blow In Oklahoma? with Reba. Dunn’s strong southern drawl and the fiddle make this the most ’country’ song on this album. Reba called upon Justin Timberlake to join her. Like Kelly Clarkson, Timberlake penned a song for their collaboration. The Only Promise That Remains comes to life with the fiddle, mandolin, and strings. Timberlake has soul and it comes through here. It’s hard to tell just from listening that it’s Timberlake on this tune until the very end, as he really does let Reba shine by sounding more like a back up singer than a duet partner. While this listener would have liked a little more Justin, this lovely song is one of the strongest contributions to Reba Duets. Don Henley is a superb singing partner on Break Each Other’s Hearts Again. Henley can do country very well, and proves it here. The Vince Gill tune, These Broken Hearts, with its piano, guitars and B-3 organ is a shining moment. When Gill writes a song and opens his mouth to let out his sweet tenor, special things happen. Gill can transcend genres with ease, and blends perfectly with Reba to make magic on These Broken Hearts.
Reba Duets brings together great talent, and will appeal to fans of various genres. It’s a formidable album that celebrates a very talented woman. Even after 31 albums, Reba McEntire still enchants and delights her listeners.
To watch the video for Reba’s classic Fancy, go to the Blogroll and click: Fancy.