Focus: Johnny Cash and Keith Urban

February 18, 2010

Many of us, both country music fan and non-fan alike, found ourselves drawn to the cinema in late 2005 to check out the Joaquin Phoenix/Reese Witherspoon Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line.  The film is an incredible look at one of country’s most notorious outlaws, showcasing his rise to stardom and his relationship with future wife June Carter.  Phoenix does an amazing Cash, and it’s hard to picture a better June Carter than Reese Witherspoon.  Scenes like his infamous performance at Folsom Prison are high-energy showstoppers, while on the other end of the spectrum are his drug-induced moments, again displayed with heartbreaking emotion through Phoenix.  He truly IS Cash, and the stunning supporting cast (portraying such luminaries as Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, and Waylon Jennings’ son Shooter playing his own father) help elevate this film from the category of Average Musician Biographical Movie to something better.

Thanks in no small part to this film, I soon found myself a fan of Cash and his music.  He truly was one of the first real rock stars, what with his swagger and Man In Black persona.  His music, oozing with heaping amounts of not only country, but folk and rock as well, is catchy and fun, from songs like the charging, “Get Rhythm, ” and the near-perfect, “Ring of Fire, ” &, “Folsom Prison Blues.  ”  In later years, he unexpectedly started releasing covers of modern rock songs, from artists as diverse as Soundgarden and Depeche Mode, and in 2004, around the time of his passing, his heartbreaking, powerful cover of Nine Inch Nails, “Hurt, ” became a posthumous hit for Cash.

Years later, another country music outlaw would emerge from the islands of New Zealand, also catering to a variety of styles that resulted in an instantly appealing sound.  Keith Urban began his career as a member of The Ranch, eventually breaking off on his own to release hit singles like his early solo efforts, “Where The Blacktop Ends, ” and, “But for the Grace of God.  ”  The success continued, even as Keith struggled with varying degrees of substance abuse, only to emerge the star he is today.  Massive album sales, multiple awards and an image that has gone from N’SYNC wannabe to rough and tumble bad boy make him a diamond in the rough.  I’ve seen Keith live three times, and have consistently been impressed.  First stumbling upon a performance of his at a country festival in my hometown of Waukesha back in 2004, I could tell even then he had something I hadn’t seen in other country artists before.  Witnessing his growth as a live act at Summerfest in 2005 (upstaging headliner Tim McGraw) and again in 2007 have only solidified my opinion-Keith Urban is not only one of the finest country artists you’re likely to find, but one of my favorite artists period.

The same can be said for Johnny Cash, a legend with an influence in any musician who dares to go against the rules and have a good time.  His music, his personality, and his mind-set, to be no one other than himself, will live on forever.

EDIT: I realized not long after publishing this blog post that I’ve seen Keith Urban  a fourth time, this past summer during Summerfest once again.  This show, although bursting with his extensive collection of hits, catered heavily to his new album, along with a number of slow numbers that killed the energy somewhat.  Not my favorite show I’ve seen him perform thus far, but I’ll give him another chance. 🙂


One Response to “Focus: Johnny Cash and Keith Urban”

  1. Kathy Farvour Says:

    Glad to hear you’ll give him another chance. I’m going to hold you to that, you know. And I think you meant “With A Big Top Hat”…. : )

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