My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Hank Williams Jr – ‘Sings My Songs Johnny Cash’

R-2502241-1287513429.jpeg1970 saw Hank Williams Jr continuing to record albums of other people’s songs. This time around he tackled the Johnny Cash songbook, collecting ten distinctive Cash classics for the project. The resulting album is a solid honky-tonk affair that finds Hank sticking true to the Cash originals but not trying to imitate the Man in Black’s vocal style.

I’ll admit that I know very little about this project since there isn’t too much information to be found about it online. But the album did come from MGM Records, which was Hank’s label home at this point in his career. I quite like the project, too, which boosts well for Hank’s abilities as an interpreter of song and his keen sense to make these songs his own. What I expected to be a run-of-the-mill covers project actually has some imagination thrown in, even if Hank did stick closely to the originals.

I only know “Give My Love to Rose” as the Grammy-winning track from Cash’s American IV: The Man Comes Around and not in its original version. Hank does a wonderful job of bringing the track to life, but his vocal is a bit too chipper for my liking – the man his dying, why does he sound so jovial? “Ring of Fire” is another questionable choice, with Hank forgoing the track’s trademark horns. The track is saved by the Nashville Sound era production, though, which his glorious guitar picking and flourishes of steel.

One of my favorite Cash songs, “Tennessee Flat Top Box” is presented here in fine form. Hank’s strong vocal shows his command over his voice in those early years and gives the audience an enjoyable listen. Hank also sings “Folsom Prison Blues” with strong conviction, which is difficult to do on a song so closely associated with its writer.

There really isn’t much to say about the rest of the album, except it continues in the vein of the aforementioned tracks. Each song on Sings My Songs Johnny Cash is well executed and expertly performed by the musicians who surround Hank with some of the strongest picking of the day. My favorite of the remaining tracks would have to be “I Still Miss Someone,” a stunning take which turns the song into a mournful ballad with gorgeous helpings of steel guitar throughout.

Sings My Songs Johnny Cash is a tall order that Hank fulfills very well. His honky-tonk stylings come across with ease and the sophistication of someone comfortable with his craft. To modern ears the album comes off generic, with little personality to set these recordings apart. But by and large this is a very strong recording that I recommend (not highly) checking out.

Grade: A-

5 responses to “Album Review: Hank Williams Jr – ‘Sings My Songs Johnny Cash’

  1. Ken January 8, 2016 at 10:12 am

    On the surface it might appear that this album was recorded merely to capitalize on Johnny Cash’s name. Released in June 1970 this album appeared on store shelves while Cash was at the pinnacle of his success. His singles were topping the charts, his albums were selling millions, his concerts were sell-outs and his weekly ABC-TV Show was drawing millions of viewers. However the friendship between Cash and Hank Jr. went back several years. The two men had shared the concert stage in the late 1960’s teamed for package shows that drew record box office receipts for country shows of that era. Their friendship found them spending many hours together pursuing their mutual interests of exploring caves and hunting for Civil War relics. For Hank to record an album of his friend’s songs was not completely mercenary although MGM Records likely viewed it as a perfect opportunity to hitch onto the Cash money train. Considering MGM had just signed Hank to a new $500,000 a year contract in February 1970 they were very anxious to reap a nice return on their investment.

    As Jonathan pointed out there’s really nothing not to like about this album. Hank was backed by some of Nashville’s best studio musicians and was in excellent voice. The album was recorded over three sessions during March and early April of 1970. Unfortunately there was little musical innovation involved so other than hearing Hank singing Johnny Cash songs there’s nothing truly unique here. They approached this project just as they would any other Hank Jr. recording session from that era. That said it’s still great to hear country music that sounds pure, clean, vibrant and above all country!

  2. Paul W Dennis January 8, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    Albums of this kind, single artist tributes to another artist, were once fairly commonplace in country music. Stonewall Jackson, Ernest Tubb, George Jones and Charley Pride (among others) cut salutes to Hank Williams, Kitty Wells and Faron Young cut tributes to Jim Reeves, many artists including Merle Haggard, Hank Snow cut tributes to Jimmie Rodgers, Willie Nelson issued a tribute to Lefty Frizzell. and there exist tribute albums to Eddy Arnold, Ernest Tubb, Dallas Frazier, Leon Payne, Bob Wills, Kitty Wells and countless other country stars

    Somewhere along the line those albums disappeared, Maybe it is better that way – would you really want a Florida-Georgia Line Salute Jason Aldean album ?

    Getting back to this album, I really like the album and pull it out every now and then. it is nice to hear someone tackle Johnny’s songs without also trying to imitate his voice

  3. Pingback: Album Review: Hank Williams Jr – ‘The World Of Hank Williams Jr’ | My Kind of Country

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