A Man Of The West- The Old West Ballads Of Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash Sings The True Ballads Of The Old West, Johnny Cash, Sbme Special Mkts, 2009
I have spent some time, and I believe time well spent, at this site over the pass couple of years talking about things of the West, old and new. You know the stuff of legends like we grew up with as kids, at least my generation, the generation of ’68, did, for better or worst. Blame it on Larry McMurtry, his books, and his incessant Old West reviews in “The New York Review Of Books”. Some of this stuff is genuine history, things that today’s labor militants should know about like the struggles of the Western Federation Of Miners, Big Bill Haywood and the legendary Wobblies (IWW, Industrial Workers Of The World) who led many a strike against the mine, farm, and lumber bosses.
Other things are, and should be treated a little more circumspectly, like the legends of Jesse James and John Wesley Harding, especially those who honor the Northern victory in the American Civil War. There has, in short, been no lack of song and storytelling about the Old West. This is a round-about way of introducing Johnny Cash’s valuable little cache of old time Western-oriented material, mainly ballads, including some long needed focus on the struggle s of Native Americans, the odd group out in the West, old and new.
The name Johnny Cash, although well thought of in this space, has mainly been mentioned in connection with his connection to the legendary Carter family (he married Maybelle’s daughter, June, for those who are not familiar with that family’s genealogy), a family more noted for their contributions to mountain music, eastern mountain music, than the hard western plains described in this album. Nonetheless, Johnny in that deep, authoritative and plaintive voice of his has brought the Old West alive in this recording. I should like to note several stick out items of interest here. First off- the rendition, based on Longfellow, of “Hiawatha’s Vision”; an interesting song about the fate of the assassin of President James Garfield in the post-Civil War period, “Mr. Garfield; and, a song of the original old West, Kentucky, in” Road to Kaintuck”. Then to finish this compilation up there are songs that truly reflect the struggles of the Old West, “Stampede,” “Blizzard,” “The Streets Of Laredo,” and “Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie”. Just a nice little slice of Americana, mainly not mentioned in the history books, or by western Chamber of Commerces.
The Streets of Laredo
arranged & adapted by Arlo Guthrie
As I walked out in the streets of Laredo
As I walked out in Laredo one day
I spied a poor cowboy wrapped up in white linen
All wrapped in white linen as cold as the clay
"I see by your outfit that you are a cowboy"
These words he did say as I proudly stepped by
"Come sit down beside me and hear my sad story
I'm shot in the breast and I know I must die
"'Twas once in the saddle I used to go ridin'
Once in the saddle I used to go gay
First lead to drinkin', and then to card-playing
I'm shot in the breast and I'm dying today
"Let six jolly cowboys come carry my coffin
Let six pretty gals come to carry my pall
Throw bunches of roses all over my coffin
Throw roses to deaden the clods as they fall
"Oh, beat the drum slowly, and play the fife lowly
And play the dead march as you carry me along
Take me to the green valley and lay the earth o'er me
For I'm a poor cowboy and I know I've done wrong"
We beat the drum slowly and played the fife lowly
And bitterly wept as we carried him along
For we all loved our comrade, so brave, young and handsome
We all loved our comrade although he done wrong
©1991 Arloco Music Inc
All Rights Reserved.