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June Carter Cash steps out of the shadows

The Troubadour, Hollywood, Cal., May 29, 1999

By Dan MacIntosh

HOLLYWOOD, CA - Right at the exact midpoint of June Carter Cash's rare solo appearance, there appeared a large shadow on the wall leading down from the VIP area upstairs. Moving slowly, yet steadily, Johnny Cash reached the stage to join his wife for two duets, before returning the spotlight back to June.

And much like that large shadow he cast in the club, Johnny has always seemed to overshadow the hidden talents of June Carter Cash. But then again, this mighty man in black has this very same affect on most other mere mortals, so June is not really all alone in the dark.

Although shadows are nothing new for this daughter of Maybelle Carter of Carter Family fame, Cash has always found her way into the sunshine.

Backed by the Living Circle Band, which included her son John Carter Cash on vocals and acoustic guitar, Cash turned this into a night of lively songs and even livelier stories.

The group was anchored by longtime Johnny Cash bassist Dave Roe and colored by Cash's own autoharp playing. Their performance had the looseness of an informal jug band, coming off as natural and sincere.

Seated on a chair at the front of the stage dressed in elegant black (what else?), Cash sang most of the material from only her second solo release, the new "Press On."

The album's title also became like a mantra this night because whenever things got a little hairy up on stage, invariably somebody from the audience would shout "Press On!"

Still, Cash really didn't need a whole lot of encouragement. In a set that ranged from old Carter Family chestnuts ("Wildwood Flower"), to old Johnny Cash favorites (the Cash penned "Ring of Fire"), Cash carried herself quite well, thank you very much.

Even so, this packed house was probably most excited about the presence of that man behind those big big shadows. The Cashes sang the spiritual "The Far Side Banks of Jordan" and the lusty "Jackson" together, to the great delight of the crowd. In spite of his bout with the rare nerve disorder, Shy-Drager syndrome, John looked and sounded pretty good. His speaking voice seemed a little weak, but as soon as he started trading lines with June, his legendary booming voice rang loud and clear.

The show was closed with a spirited rendition of "Will The Circle Be Unbroken," which came as no real surprise to anyone. But much like Cash's performance in general, little of what was heard this night should be much of a surprise: We've all known that Cash's roots go deep and strong, it's just taken her a while to let 'em show. And to her we say, "Press On!"

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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