It’s rare for me to find a covers album that not only does justice to the original songs, but that also respectfully reinvigorates them. On Soul of Cash [Ada Cole/Purpose Music Group, 2017], soul singer Brian Owens orchestrates the reinterpretting and reinvention of some of Johnny Cash‘s most popular songs with impeccable results.
“Ring of Fire”, previously laced with mariachi horns and Cash’s deep, brooding vocals, is now a smooth soul jam. Back-up singers echo Owen’s impassioned vocals, adding a gospel flavor Cash would have approved of. “Folsom Prison”‘s sped up rhythm and horns make this former “blues” song a classic R&B dance track. The energy infused into this new version blows it out of the speakers, daring you not to stand up and clap your hands with it.
Owen wisely doesn’t try to repeat the same tricks with each song. On “Walk the Line”, he slows things down, letting the bass carry the song, backed by a light string arrangement and cooing backing singers. Halfway through, he picks things up with enriched orchestration and mid-tempo surf guitar. Owens also doesn’t carry all the songs alone, bringing Austin Grimm Smith to share vocals on “Sunday Morning Coming Down”, Dylan McDonald on “Long Black Veil”, and Rissi Palmer on the albums one original track, “Soul in My Country”. Each bring something different to their songs that work beautifully with the reimagining.
Cash’s original tracks always had a darkness buried in them, and what Owen’s album does best is to bring out the love and joy from these tracks. He truly makes them his own, and with excellent production makes each song sound so timeless that you wouldn’t be surprised if the songs were actually recorded back in the 60’s and 70’s. This album is very worth checking out.