Columbia Sets Multi-Star Tribute to Songs of Johnny Cash

Columbia Records is set to release the multi-star album Kindred Spirits: A Tribute to the Songs of Johnny Cash on May 28. Marty Stuart , Cash ’s former band member and son-in-law, is producing the album. Details of the project were unveiled Wednesday (Feb. 20) at a media reception held at Sony Music’s Nashville offices. Sony is Columbia’s parent company.

The artists participating and the Cash-written songs they sing are Dwight Yoakam , “Understand Your Man”; Travis Tritt , “I Walk the Line”; Keb’ Mo’, “Folsom Prison Blues”; Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris and Mary Chapin Carpenter , “Flesh and Blood”; Bob Dylan, “Train of Love”; Bruce Springsteen, “Give My Love to Rose”; Little Richard, “Get Rhythm”; Patty Loveless , “I Still Miss Someone”; Charlie Robison , “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town”; Hank Williams Jr. , “Big River”; Steve Earle , “Hardin Wouldn’t Run”; and Stuart, “Hey Porter.”

The new Monument Records vocal quartet, Little Big Town, performed a three-song acoustic set, concluding with its current and first single, “Don’t Waste My Time.” Larry Pareigis, Monument’s vice president of national promotion, announced that the single has been so well received by radio that it charted a full month before it was scheduled to be added to the stations’ playlists.

Speaking of the upcoming Country Radio Seminar, which brings most country music programmers and consultants to Nashville, Pareigis said, “I guarantee we’re going to come out of that as the belles of the ball.”

Introducing the group, Sony’s executive vice president and general manager, Mike Kraski, described the Little Big Town sound as “very important and unique to the format. … You’ve heard nothing like them on country radio.” Kraski also noted that the members are prolific songwriters.

“They’re so cute when they’re little,” beamed Sony CEO Allen Butler. Then, in an obvious reference to Little Big Town’s litigious labelmates, the Dixie Chicks, Butler cracked, “They’ll probably grow up suing us.”

Butler summarized his take on the group’s artistic significance by asserting, “They embody everything that is current and contemporary in country music.”

Producer Blake Chancey, Sony’s vice president of artists & repertoire, played the Yoakam, Tritt and Keb’ Mo’ cuts from the Cash tribute. He said Keb’ Mo’ at first refused to sing “Folsom Prison Blues” because he objected to the line, “I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.” Stuart gave the singer/guitarist permission to change the line to “They said I shot a man in Reno, but that was just a lie.” Chancey speculated that Cash wouldn’t be upset with the modification since he himself had made a change in a Bruce Springsteen song he recorded.

Butler opened the reception with an optimistic observation about country music’s current doldrums. “There’s a feeling in the air,” he said, “that we’re turning the corner.”