Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash
First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2006, Volume 13, #11
Written by John Metzger
With the release of its third outing Mile Markers, Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash has begun to look less like a band and more like a vehicle for front man Mark Stuartís material. Judging by the deep, emotional resonance and unwavering charm of the final product, however, this isnít necessarily a bad thing as the album greatly improves upon the groupís early endeavors. Gone are the whiskey-soaked, honky-tonk appropriations of its debut Walk Alone, and the garage-inflected, roots-rock textures of its sophomore effort Distance Between have been polished significantly. It helps, too, that Stuart has surrounded himself with a solid supporting cast that includes the multifaceted Greg Liesz, and throughout the set, the collective nimbly alters its approach in order to create a more eclectic yet fully cohesive song cycle.
Perhaps the biggest issue plaguing Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash on Mile Markers is that the ensemble remains dogged by its inability to extricate itself completely from the clutches of its influences. Tracks like Borderline of the Heart and Night Comes Down fuse Bruce Springsteenís everyman rock with shades of Steve Earle and John Mellencamp, respectively, while Radio Girl is steeped in the folk musings of Gordon Lightfoot. Elsewhere, Austin Night draws directly from the Eagles, and The Road to Bakersfield, California Sky, and Lonely Tonight pull from Robert Earl Keenís canon. Although Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash still seems to be searching for its niche, the group never before has managed to deliver a set that is nearly as relaxed, comfortable, and effortless as Mile Markers, nor has it ever sounded this confident. There also is an increased focus to Stuartís songwriting, but most of all, itís the weary, reflective yearning in his voice that succeeds in bringing his road tales to life.
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box