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Various Artists

Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited

Review by Gary Hill

Fifty Years ago Johnny Cash released an album titled, “Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian.” The album was Cash’s foray into political issues. It was a concept album about the mistreatment of the Native Americans by the US government. In celebration of this milestone a number of artists have gotten together to recreate the disc. I have to say that I’ve never heard the original, but if it’s half as good as this album, it must be great. I should note that my copy doesn’t have any kind of liner notes to speak of, so I’ve gotten the personnel information from the web. Take its accuracy with a grain of salt. Do not, however, disregard the quality of this. That would be a mistake.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
As Long as the Grass Shall Grow

Featuring a duet between Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, this song is very folk like. It’s also very pretty. I love the chorus hook, but the verses tell a very sad tale.

Apache Tears
I love the intricate acoustic guitar on this tune. It’s slow and very sad, too. It’s deliberate and quite effective. Emmylou Harris joins The Milk Carton Kids on this piece.
Custer
This time The Milk Carton Kids are joined by Steve Earle. Given the subject matter, such a bouncy, fun track might seem an odd combination. Yet, this works really well. It’s one of my favorites here.
The Talking Leaves
Nancy Blake; Emmylou Harris; Gillian Welch and David Rawlings are featured here. This is slow and has a lot of talking in the vocal line.
The Ballad of Ira Hayes
Folk and country music combine on this ballad. It’s another sad tune and a potent one. It features Kris Kristofferson; Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.
Drums
Energized country folk is the idea here. It starts with a more stripped back arrangement and it gradually gets more layers of sound. Norman Blake; Gillian Welch; David Rawlings; Nancy Blake and Emmylou Harris all contribute to this piece.
Apache Tears (Reprise)
This is more or less an instrumental, but there are a few non-lyrical vocals. It’s a pretty tune. The song features Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.
White Girl
Performed by The Milk Carton Kids, this starts slow, but gets more energized later. It’s got a bit of a modern alternative vibe, It still has the folk and country elements in place, though.
The Vanishing Race
The female vocals on this tune are very soulful. The piece really has a much more modern sound to it. It feels a bit like some folk rock from the 1960s, too. I love this song. In fact, I think it’s my favorite tune here. Everything about it just about perfect. The musicians featured here include: Rhiannon Giddens; Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.
As Long as the Grass Shall Grow (Reprise)
Intricate acoustic guitar is showcased on this reprise of the earlier piece. It includes Gillian Welch; David Rawlings and Nancy Blake.
Look Again to the Wind
This is more of the folk oriented music. There is a powered up section mid-track, but otherwise it’s a more sparse arrangement that leans on the mellow side of things. Bill Miller is featured here.

 

 
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