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Johnny Cash's America (CD/DVD)
Genres: Country, Pop, Rock, Christian
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Superb Johnny Cash biographical documentary DVD and CD
hyperbolium | Earth, USA | 11/12/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon's Johnny Cash documentary premiered on the U.S. Bio channel in late October, accompanied by this DVD/CD package, Johnny Cash's America. The DVD includes the full 90-minute documentary alongside several video extras. The CD collects eighteen full-length performances of songs heard in the documentary, five of which were previously unreleased. The core documentary strings together archival footage of Cash in performance, television specials and documentaries, supplemented by interviews with family and musical associates, authoritatively answering the questions posed by the film's narrator: "How did events shape Cash? And what did he reflect back on to the country? How can one speak his mind, without losing his voice?" Cash's story is told in chronological order, starting with the hardscrabble Arkansas roots at the very core of his character. Cash's earliest years are described by childhood friends and remembered by Cash in a filmed return to his first home.
Cash's recording career, from Sun Records to Columbia to his last works with Rick Rubin provide the soundtrack to a life that's both a product of America and an influence woven into the tapestry of the country he so vocally loved. Cash is shown as an artist who stuck resolutely to his vision, such as when he lampoons the notion he'd replace Elvis as the King departed to RCA. Clips of Cash communing with Bob Dylan in the studio recording Nashville Skyline and a roll call of non-Country artists featured on his primetime television show further demonstrate the breadth of his musical vision. As far as Cash managed to stretch the ears of his fans, he stretched their minds even further. In lending his voice to the plight of Native Americans and prisoners, and in offering forthright discussions of his own drug use ("I was taking the pills for awhile, and then the pills started taking me"), he repeatedly showed a willingness to challenge the status quo. His performances of "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" and his own "What is Truth" at the Nixon White House (in lieu of Nixon's request for "Welfare Cadillac") found him speaking truth to the ultimate American power. Cash's unabashed patriotism played out in both flag waving and a stern criticism, as he saw fit.
Though music was clearly one of Cash's saviors, there were several human agents whose strength helped him wrestle with his demons. June Carter Cash is shown as the rock upon which Cash's initial rescue from drugs was founded, Billy Graham helps him along in his rebirth as a Christian, and producer Rick Rubin revives his career with an introduction to a new youth audience. At each turn, it's Cash himself who summons the strength to change and move on, but over and over there's a catalyst setting him in motion. Neville and Gordon's timeline is augmented with numerous clips and comments that provide viewpoint beyond mere facts, explaining what events and people meant within the context of Cash's life, and what Cash's life meant within the context of the times in which he lived. The directors expose the roots of Cash's broad empathy, and create a story that may be less of a drama than the biopic Walk the Line, but is no less dramatic.
Interview subjects include Cash's sister Joanne, daughters Cindy and Rosanne, son John Carter, and friends, associates and fans that include Al Gore, Snoop Dog, Sheryl Crow, Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, Loretta Lynn, Marshall Grant, Senator Lamar Alexander, Jack Clement, John Mellencamp, Steve Earle, Merle Haggard, Vince Gill, Jon Langford and John Mellancamp. The CD's previously unreleased tracks are a pair of tunes recorded in Hendersonville (1969's "Come Along and Ride This Train" and 1974's "I Am the Nation"), and a trio of live recordings (1970's "What is Truth" from the White House, 1971's "Children, Go Where I Send Thee" from Denmark, and "This Land is Your Land" from Cash's television show). The DVD's twenty-three minutes of extras include additional interview clips, a 1961 television performance of "Five Feet High and Rising" from Star Route USA, color home movies from Cash's 1972 performance at the White House, television outtakes of Cash delivering his trademark "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash" over and over and over, and documentary footage of the Cash family visiting Johnny's childhood home. Buy this to watch the documentary, keep it to enjoy the fine selection of Cash classics and rarities. [©2008 hyperbolium dot com]"
Johnny Cash's America
Serella Odea | 12/03/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the story of one of the most talented people in America and depicts Johnny's impact on the American way of life. Proof that you can come from poverty to riches and not let it get in the way of your goals. I found this to be the best tribute to Johnny Cash to date. Normally I am not into country music but am a huge Johnny Cash fan and this will be my favorite and definitely a keeper."
Great DVD/CD set...
Larry M. Mewborn | Raleigh, NC | 12/07/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The DVD & CD are inspirational. This is a must for all 'true country' fans."