Born into a family of great musical tradition, John Carter Cash has finally emerged from the shadows of his late great ‘Man in Black’ father, Johnny Cash, with this his debut album.
But Bitter Harvest is far from being John Carter’s first appearance on the country music scene. He had been a member of his father’s Johnny Cash Road Band for many years, touring with the old man and his mother June Carter Cash while growing up. This in turn led to his name appearing throughout the Johnny Cash back catalogue – he produced many of his parents’ singles – and winning a clutch of Grammys for his production efforts. Somewhere in amongst all this, John Carter found time to lay down the tracks that have now come to form this 12 track offering.
It screams the influences of so many country and rock’n’roll artists from the time of John Carter’s early years. Amongst the cast of influentials are Willie Nelson, Glen Campbell and Walon Jennings. Led Zeppelin and AC/DC‘s influence can be heard on Crumblin’ Rock of Dixie and Only a Dream. But the album is predominantly country, yet without pushing too far towards the cliche of duelling banjos and screeching steel string guitars.
Bitter Harvest contains two original Carter family songs. Mongolian King (Slight Reprise) features brother Joseph Cash, and bonus track The Way-worn Traveller invokes Johnny himself, recorded as it was shortly before his passing.
When you first listen to this record straight through, you find yourself confused by the spread of influences that appear from track to track. The opener, Mongolian King, initally put me off. It comes across as stereotypically ‘old’ country, defined in two and a half minutes. Beyond the first track, however, is an array of well crafted new age country rock music.
Is this the sound of the country music of the future? The third track, Remain Calm, sounds more like Radiohead, possessing an experimental beauty that pushes toward a renaissance of country. And that can be no bad thing.