If you can name it David Thrussell has probably done it. And if he hasn’t, he probably didn’t want to. Spoken word albums used to teach Russian’s the English language, soundtracks to Australian feature films like Thunderstruck and the Hard Word, caustic electro pop under his moniker Snog and industrial electronic music under Black Lung. Years ago he hosted Rude Mechanical, one of the strangest and most influential radio programs you could imagine, mixing electronic music into country and novelty joke songs on Melbourne’ PBS. These days he’s the head honcho at Omni Recording Corporation, a predominantly reissue label that has uncovered the dark underbelly of the Nashville soul, mining outsider country music from the likes of Porter Wagoner, but also influential early electronic music from the likes of Bruce Haack. His most recent Snog album Babes in Consumerland saw him undergo a sex change and replace David with Dee, offering the provocative facebook banned video The New Cocksucker Blues . Whilst there’ also a new Black Lung 12inch on the way, due in the not so distant future. In the meantime Dee’ Cyclic Selects offers a handy guide to the under-heard and under-appreciated Man In Black.
1. The Good Earth
(from the 1974 LP “Any Old Wind That Blows’)
Soaring JC tale of earthy worship and fatalism, chronicles a man’s raising and returning to the dust. Commanding vocal lets you know that JC means every word of it. Priceless song from Cash’s overlooked 1970s output.
2. Jacob Green
(from the 1973 45 and LP)
The best JC single you never heard. In the great 1960s/1970s battle between the squares and the long hairs, Cash always covertly sided with the freaks – and here is evidence of that. Recorded live in a Swedish prison in late 1972, (the single is a slightly different version with a few overdubs) Cash skewers the entire “justice’ system on a very, very sharp stick. From the lonely hippie’s cell block “suicide” we pan out for a searing indictment of the whole stinking mess. Essential.
3. The Diplomat
(from the 1978 LP “Gone Girl”)
Beautiful, moving and majestic song of loss and remembering. Death and trains and regret – painted on the perfect canvas of profound yet intimate voice, plucking guitars and swelling strings. Did I say beautiful already?
4. Little Magic Glasses
(from the 1975 LP “The Johnny Cash Children’ Album”)
JC sings to his son of the future and their respective paths through the great mystery of life. Achingly melancholic, wise and humble – a beautiful song from a fine album for young and old alike.
5. Melva’ Wine
(from the 1972 LP “A Thing Called Love”)
Sweeping parable of love, death and grapes, rebirth and memory. Sublime backing vocal (from Anita Carter) arrangement weaves around JC’s stentorian and touching narrative. Cash at his reflective and sincere best.
6. Tear Stained Letter
(from the 1972 LP “A Thing Called Love”)
Another superb song from what is probably Cash’ best 1970s LP (very strong from start to finish). Finely crafted tear-jerker from a head-bowed, repentant JC. Who said elegiac strings and sparse, forlorn country music don’t mix? Listen to this and weep heathen.
7. Don’ Go Near The Water
(from the 1974 LP “Ragged Old Flag”)
Mournful environmental ode inspired (in theory, if not in fact) by Rachel Carson’ prophetic, alarming “Silent Spring’. Urgent delivery from JC communicates that the clock is ticking fast and time is running out. Cash songwriting at its peak. From another very strong but now overlooked album.
8. They Killed Him
(from the 1984 ’45’)
Obscure and great single from Cash with massive reverberant production and effective, insistent synth (!) riff. JC gets all spiritual/political and it works just great thanks. Draws interesting parallels between 20th century political assassinations and the big Judeo-Christic political (?) assassination a few millennia back. Written by big time JC pal Kristoffersson. Cash could still pull out huge tunes like this in the “80s, but nobody was listening. He put out another obscure single just before this one, “Chicken In Black” (a satire of Nashville and Cash’s place in it) that while not as great is certainly amusing. I’m pretty sure I’ve even seen a music video for that one.
9. Committed To Parkview
(from the 1976 LP “One Piece At A Time”)
Reportedly written for fellow Parkview “guest’s Porter Wagoner, this tale of life inside a sanatorium for the mentally “exhausted’ has been re-recorded a few times. Humourous and insightful, the strung out JC narrates day to day life inside the notorious Nashville nut house. Washed up rock “n’ roll well-knowns rub shoulders with street life and domestic neurotics in a humble and entertaining potpourri.
10. No Earthly Good
(from the 1977 LP “The Rambler”)
Acidic, wise cut from Cash’s ignored (and quite excellent) concept album “The Rambler”. JC takes a stick to the pious, who (his impassioned lyric pleads) should be dirtying their hands down here on earth (as there is plenty to do!).
Each track on the LP abuts a spoken piece recorded in Cash’s car as he rambles around the country (post-relationship) jousting with his similarly lonesome “hitch-hiker’ pal. It’s all a deceptively effective straight-through listen.