2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This often overlooked gem from 1963 is one of a run of great recordings Cash made for Columbia in the early `60s. Here he draws his inspiration from the backbone of any country, the common working man. He uses his distinctive bass baritone to deliver a set of tales of those who built the country in a very committed performance.
With the musical backing of the Tennessee Two and the vocal backing of the Carter family, this is a richer, more textured sound than some of his previous Columbia releases. The trademark chick-a-boom sound is still much in evidence, but the Carter family add a rich palette to the sound, and this makes the record a great listen.
Using a set of covers and a couple of original songs, Cash tells us stories and legends. The first eight and a half minutes is a handsome rendition of `The Legend of John Henry's Hammer', in which we really get a sense of the dignity of the man, and his determination not to be beaten by a mechanised replacement or his cruel boss. It's the best version of the song I have heard by far, and is completely made by Cash's controlled and carefully nuanced evocative vocal.
This is a classic record, and a fine addition to Cash's discography. 5 stars. I cannot understand why it was not re-released in the 2002 set of Cash reissues from Sony, but it is worth looking out nonetheless.