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Simultaneous salutes to the man
in black and the man upstairs

Joanne Cash / Kevin Max
B.B. King's Blues Club
Nashville, TN
Apr. 23, 2007
Joanne Cash / Kevin Max Joanne Cash Joanne Cash / Kevin Max

Story and Photos By Andy Argyrakis

The venue's sign may have blues in the title and the Cash family might still be reeling from the relatively recent loss of artists extraordinaire Johnny and June Carter, but there wasn't a single seed of sadness once Joanne Cash took the stage. She may often be tagged the sister of the famous country crossover star, but the entertainer's released twenty-seven of her own albums throughout the past three decades, including her latest career compilation Gospel (Acme Music Group). Aside from celebrating that collection of Johnny/Joanne duets, originals and old time spiritual standards, this particular evening also marked the five year anniversary of Nashville Publicity Group (which represents Cash and several other artists under industry veteran Brian Mayes).

To mark the double occasion, the country crooner brought out her full band (which included longtime Johnny Cash players Gary Brock on bass and Bud Rawls on keyboards), along with guest vocalist Kevin Max (who also turned in a solo set) for a glance at the new album and some Cash family classics. Considering her vast time on the road thus far (plus learning the ropes with Johnny as the likes of Elvis Presley opened for him), Joanne is no stranger to the stage, working every corner of the tightly packed club with a balance of entertainment and inspiration. One particularly uplifting cut was "Cotton, Popcorn, Peanuts & Jesus," which she explained were the simple but sweet elements on which the family was raised.

After sharing other stories and cruising through her back catalogue, Joanne called upon Max, who's fresh off a Viper Room residency on Sunset Strip, opening slots for Psychedelic Furs and co-writing sessions with Duran Duran's Warren Cuccurullo. Though generally considered an underground wailer inspired by the likes of Morrissey or David Bowie, he proved to be a suitable southern interpreter filling in for Johnny during the duet "When He Comes."

Yet the true highlight of the night came during the pair's epic version of "God's Gonna Cut You Down," which tipped its hat at Johnny's version from his final studio CD American V: A Hundred Highways (Lost Highway). The two turned up the heat even higher, shouting the moving lyrics back and fourth with so much emotional intensity that nearly everyone leapt out of their seats and started making their way towards the stage like an old fashioned revival.

Even with the weighty nature of that riveting rendition, there was still a gleeful nature in the air, which fully materialized in a backstage cake cutting ceremony (saluting both the show and company's anniversary). Aside for some candid chat time amongst those gathered, the after party also brought together many from the Cash clan, including Johnny and Joanne's brother Tommy (who's also a fellow recording artist). And despite all that's happened throughout the past few years, the family remains incredibly close, calling upon one another to stay strong in spirit and continue keeping their timeless music alive for the generations to come.

Joanne Cash / Kevin Max Joanne Cash
Joanne Cash

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