VH-1 Storytellers

Johnny Cash & Willie Nelson

American Recordings, 1998


REVIEW BY: Adam Mico


Imagine yourself riding in a convertible with the top down on a spacious country road. It's a hazy summer day and the scent of fruit bearing trees and nature delicately stroke as you pass. In your right hand is some sippin' tea and the left is holding the hand of a loved one. At some point, you take a mental picture that pleasantly lasts an eternity. The sensory teases received from this experience and listening to VH1 Storytellers: Johnny Cash/Willie Nelson are comparable.

The 'Man in Black' began his recording career at the now legendary Sun Records in 1955. Since then, he became known as a living legend who has never sold out. "A Boy Named Sue," "One Piece At A Time" and "Ring of Fire" are a few examples of the epic cuts Cash has released. Over the years, he has collaborated with numerous artists and is never afraid to put his mythos on the line with such pairings. Cash's groupings have included (but not limited to) Bob Dylan, Jerry Lee Lewis, Hank Williams Jr. and the Highwaymen (an outlaw country supergroup with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kistofferson).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Willie Nelson started behind the scenes as a songwriter and background musician in the 1960s. As a relative unknown, he wrote the country standards "Crazy," "Nite Life," "Hello Walls" and "Funny How Time Slips Away" for other artist. Finally, in 1975, he became regarded as an icon with a unique country concept album Red Headed Stranger. Since then he has been immortalized with songs like; "Blue Skies," "On the Road Again," "Angels Flying Too Close to the Ground" and "To All the Girls I've Loved Before" (with Julio Iglesias), among an army of others. Nelson has the uncanny ability to work with your emotions and make you feel the story within the song. You could feel and appreciate him without even closely listening. This skill makes him one of my favorite songwriters.

In 1998, a 'live' performance featuring this duo was rendered as a show for VH-1 with approximately 200 in the audience. After a lifetime of creation, the pairing of Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash showcases two living legends who miraculously lived up to their legendary standards. The duo were seated on stage with chairs, their guitars and mutual reverence, like two buddies relaxing on a front porch passing time in the warm summer air. At this point, the storytelling and performances feature each icon at his apex.

Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson split tracks and the sequence is superb. With the exception of a breezed-through "On the Road Again," every selected song is ably performed, featuring great recordings of a series of excellent second-tier hits that span their careers. Although each song is notable, "Unchained" stands as the sole performance that is more compelling than its original recorded version.

VH1 Storytellers - Johnny Cash/Willie Nelson is unquestionably desirable because of their interaction. Their dialogue is very informative, engaging, comical and adds considerably to the set list's luster. Actually, this CD is indispensable because the songs (regardless of how great they may be) are secondary to their conversations. My favorite moment was when Johnny and Willie described life before they became 'The Man in Black' and 'The Red Headed Stranger'.

In the future, I could see this recording being plucked from the rubble and duly regarded as definitive. Nevertheless, at present, VH1 Storytellers - Johnny Cash/Willie Nelson is an underappreciated masterwork. There are minor pitch flaws by Johnny, but they act as only barely detectable surface scratches on a Ferrari.

Relax and replenish with VH1 Storytellers: Johnny Cash/Willie Nelson.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2003 Adam Mico and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of American Recordings, and is used for informational purposes only.