Whilst researching this fabulous album I stumbled over an excellent informative review by Brenda Nelson-Strauss which you can read on the Black Grooves site. For my part I’m happy to review it from a soul boy’s point of view. First up, any review of a black soul man covering Johnnie Cash music isn’t going to be an easy sell, I’ve never heard a JC track that has ever registered any where in my head, so like some of you, I’ll be approaching this album as a Brian Owens album, having said that most soul boys have Clarence Carter, Joe Tex, Joe Simon, Eddie Hinton music in there collections, all of these guys and more were always happy with Country Music influences in their music and were all great story teller’s in their own right. You may remember I reviewed the utterly stunning “Beautiful Day” album here on UK Vibe and recently at the Soul4Real Weekender in Bilbao Spain I spun the title track at the welcome party which got a very positive, healthy response.
Owens, the son of preacher out of Ferguson, Missouri had stumbled over the music of Cash via TV. There are some truly fine moments on here, like ‘Walk The Line’, a bass driven, horn laden dancer that could quite easily do the business on a dance floor near you. His version of ‘Cry Cry Cry’ is very much more to my taste, a guitar driven, head nodding ballad which seeps into your head, very Stax/Atlantic sounding. Now then, ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ is a monster crossover dancer with a huge potential, should it find its way onto soul radio. I went off and listened to the original and I have to say this is easily the better version, which may not sit too cosy with Country Music enthusiasts as it appears to be an anthem in that genre. ‘Long Black Veil’ is a thinking man’s lumbering ballad with deft musicianship which is kept to the very minimum. ‘Man in Black’ is a full-on retro sounding on-the-four’s dancer which sounds so so good, it’s not mock Motown but it ain’t a million miles away, love the gentle horns caressing the percussion, some fabulous backing from The Vaughn’s who really do get to let you know they are there, utterly superb.
The top track on here is an Owens original which is steeped in Doo Wop but with a country sounding pedal steel guitar. The song tells us that there ain’t that much of gap between real country and soul music, with one line standing tall “We all sing the blues” with vocals shared between Owens, Rissi Palmer and Robert Randolph. An album that is essential in my world, and then some, and available on Vinyl and digital download.