Toy Commercial Tuesday: Lionel Trains With Johnny Cash

I’m mixing things up a bit with today’s TCT. As it is, I’m not much of a toy train fan. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually played with one, but how can you not like a spot for toys featuring none other than the Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash?! “If anybody loves trains, it’s me, Johnny Cash.” What a fantastic line! I wonder whether it’s true or not, but it doesn’t really matter. Heck, I’d buy trains just from the dude because he’s wearing such a badass shirt. Does Lionel sell that?

 

Dad Stuff: Music Lucy Likes…And Doesn’t

Ask any dad and he’ll tell you that he’ll try anything to stop his kid from crying. In my case, after changing our darling daughter and bouncing her around or trying to burp her, there’s not a whole lot I can offer. The missus is still breastfeeding and not pumping quite yet, so my options are limited. With her still home, that option is obviously open and I’ll practically be a bottle feeding ninja by the time she goes back to work, but as of right now, I’m trying out different music on Lucy to try and calm her down.She likes the Beatles, but the one performer who always seems to calm her down–with some accompaniment by dear old dad–is none other than the Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash. For Christmas, my inlaws gave me the Legends box set, which is on my computer, as opposed to all the other Johnny Cash records I have which are on my iPod. For whatever reason, the other day when Lucy was having one of her mini freak outs, I decided to try playing Johnny Cash’s music and guess what? She loved it. Better than loved, she was transfixed. The first track on the first record of that set is the classic “I Walk The Line.” I’m not sure if it’s the staccato guitar playing, Johnny’s deep voice or me singing along that gets her or all of the above, but that one track seems to always calm her down. Now I’ve just got to learn every other non Super Hits track on the records to be in a place where I can warble along with the master and hopefully calm the kid down.

I’ve tried some other music with differing results. I was hoping the faster aspects of The White Stripes or The Raconteurs would appeal to her delicate sensibilities, but that wasn’t the case. I also tried a little Fall Out Boy because I know all the words, but she was lukewarm to them. Finally, after somewhat successful forays into Charlie Daniels Band, The Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd, I hopped over to the weirdly smooth tones of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon, but she wasn’t having any of that. Maybe I should start her out on something a little jazzier like A Saucerful Of Secrets. I can forgive her for that as she seems to get a little bored with the solos and just wants to hear the lyrics. She’s definitely my girl. I do my best to vocalize the solos to keep her interested. You should hear me do “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” I’ve got the violin and guitar solos down better than some of the words.

Needless to say, most of my music listening has been predicated on her moods and what I think might lead to less screaming and more sleeping. I’ve got a LOT of music on my iPod and a good deal on my laptop to try and go through. She also seems to be as big a fan of Stephen Kellogg as I am which is good because I know a good deal of the words to his songs. The only downside I’ve found is that singing some of them–like “A (With Love)”–make me a little teary eyed and she doesn’t like the interruption in my singing. I’m starting to understand why people think they’re good enough to go on American Idol, especially if their kid thinks they’re a good singer. My daughter’s only a few weeks old and I think I could fly to the moon on the slightest, possibly-from-gas smile I get as I sing along to “Ring of Fire” or “Octopus’s Garden.” It’s shocking how tightly we can get wrapped around those tiny little fingers, isn’t it?

Covering Vinyl: Johnny Cash At San Quentin

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these Covering Vinyl pieces, but I found myself compelled to draw a Johnny Cash cover today for a reason and settled on Johnny Cash At San Quentin because it’s iconic and fairly simple visually. Pretty excellent, right? I sketched it out first and thought about just leaving it in pencil or maybe even using water colors, but I decided to go with the oil crayons like I did when I drew Dark Side Of The Moon. My intent was to capture the blues and blacks of the image. I wish I had been able to get that white halo at the back of his head, but I got a little carried away with smudging the oil crayons together. Anyway, here’s my version. The pic came out a little orangier than the actual finished product, but this is pretty much how it looks. Lots of smudges. I should have done a better job of it, but I wound up getting all my fingers dirty so it became increasingly difficult. It’s nowhere near perfect, but I’m still pretty happy with it.I really wish I could have matched the colors better because I think that’s what really makes the cover interesting. Man, I love how the bass intrudes on the shot. That is all.

Supergroup Showcase: The Highwaymen

THE HIGHWAYMEN
THE PLAYERS: Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson on guitar and vocals.
THE STORY: The four baddest outlaws in country music got together to sing some of the best damn story songs in the history of music. They recorded three albums before Jennings passed away in 2002. Nuff said.

I remember the very first time I heard about The Highwaymen. I was an intern at Wizard, rooming with Brian Warmoth at Nyack College over the summer and he played a few songs from one of their records on his laptop. At the time I might have picked up one of those Walmart Johnn Cash Super Hits CDs or that might have come later, but I did have a general disdain towards country–you know the stuff they play on the radio or even VH1 sometimes. I didn’t realize there was so much better country out there. Anyway, he explained the supergroup to me, that it included Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. The idea of it was very intriguing. Later, during my senior year of college, I went to Walmart once again (there’s not a lot to do in Delaware, Ohio) and picked up a Super Hits Highwaymen CD. Damn, it’s good stuff. Since then, I’ve gone on to listen to lots more Cash and was blown away when I got Nelson’s Stardust earlier this year. The most I’ve listened to Jennings is on Highwaymen records and the only extra Kirstofferson stuff I’ve heard was on my SNL DVDs when he hosted way back in 1976 (he was better known to me for his turn in the Blade movies).

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to come across the Highwaymen’s first record which was just called Highwayman. At the time, the band didn’t really have a name, they just went by their last names. It wasn’t much of a leap from Highwayman to Highwaymen and there you have it. Many of the tracks on the first record are on the Super Hits version I have, so they were familiar to me by the time I listened to it, but there were a few newbies like the Cash/Nelson sung “Committed To Parkview” a haunting track about two men in a mental institution. On their own, these guys were masters of the story-song, but together they’re like a Voltron of the form.  Much like the Traveling Wilburys these four men came together to play some amazing music which retained their individual skills but also sounded awesome together. I’ve only listened to the Super Hits and the first record, but I’ve got my eye out for the other two and will look around to see if there’s any performance DVDs on Netflix. My one complaint about the recordings is that they’re kind of over-produced. You could have just put these guys in a room with their guitars, amps and a few mics and just put it on wax like Rick Rubin did with Cash towards the end of his life and also Neil Diamond on 12 Songs. Maybe a more lo-fi remaster is in order.