What do you get when you cross Nashville, TN with Glasgow, Scotland? Although this sounds like the start of a joke with a punchline that would almost certainly involve rain, the answer is actually some excellent Johnny Cash covers in the form of 'Cashback - Songs I Learned from Johnny'.
The Scottish musician Dean Owens has collaborated with award-winning Nashville songwriter and instrumentalist Will Kimbrough to produce the CD, which includes 13 tracks of Dean's favourite Johnny Cash songs, and a single track that he wrote himself.
In some ways reminiscent of Elvis Costello's 'Almost Blue' album of Nashville country covers, Dean has infused the tracks with his own personality. His love of Johnny Cash is clearly shown by his choice of songs for the CD, which range from the classic 'Walk the Line' to lesser known songs, including David Allen Coe's hilarious 'Cocaine Carolina'. Other highlights for me included 'Wayfaring Stranger' and 'No Expectations'.
The track written by Owens himself -'The Night Johnny Cash Played San Quentin' - is a definite highlight of the CD, and stands up very well to the more familiar tracks.
Will Kimbrough adds some expert touches of guitar, mandolin and banjo to the CD, and Dean's long-time collaborators Kevin McGuire and Stuart Nisbet contribute on double base and guitar respectively. All hugely talented musicians, they complement Dean's distinctive voice.
I really wasn't sure whether I would like this CD, as cover songs are often risky, especially when you're covering such a legend as Johhny Cash. However, Dean's CD is a delightful tribute to Johnny Cash's 80th year anniversary - and I'm sure that Johhny would have been proud.