John Carter Cash: The Family Secret

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

John Carter Cash
The Family Secret
Cash House Records
[Rating: 2.5 stars]

Life in the music business has to be tough when you have a name like John Carter Cash. How could you ever live up to those two family names? You couldn’t. So, wisely, on his new CD The Family Secret, Cash doesn’t try; he just does whatever makes him happy. In the liner notes of this CD, Cash name checks the artists that excited him early on, and it’s an unlikely list that includes a lot more than just his famous father’s friends and influences. Iron Maiden, Jethro Tull and Elton John are among his inspirations on a list that also includes his father and Neil Diamond. He then proceeds to give us original songs in the styles of some of those same people with mediocre blazing, ‘70s guitar-based tunes and piano ballads mixed in with mellower songs, like the Tom Paxton classic “The Last Thing on My Mind,” featuring wife Laura on vocals.

Top-notch Nashville musicians abound, such as monster guitarist Kenny Vaughan (of Marty Stuart’s Fabulous Superlatives), and upright bassist Dave Roe, who played for Cash’s dad. But the compositions fall pretty consistently short. “Uncle Sam is Dead” features screaming harmony guitars that channel the work of any number of ‘70s FM cannabis-based guitar bands, while “If God Made Anything Better Than a Woman” is a country song that, while well-meaning, shows Cash not to be much of a country singer. And the Ramones/Ozzy inspired title track about dad being the Wolfman is just kinda goofy. On a positive note, though, after hearing this CD, I feel like I know John Carter Cash a whole lot better, as he’s generally been a behind-the-scenes mystery to most of us as a producer.

This is a tough recording to listen to and even tougher to review fairly. Cash and his collaborators probably had a great time making this record, with fun clearly more of a consideration than commercial success. He obviously made this record for himself and not for his fans; but then, since he’s not really known as an artist anyway, he probably doesn’t have that many fans to disappoint. This CD, as a whole, isn’t going to get him many new ones. But in a singles download-dominated world, he may do all right on iTunes and the like, since this is a recording taken much better in pieces than as a whole. So maybe the real family secret, besides the Wolfman bit, is that he knows how to make money doing whatever he wants, the same way his ancestors did.

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