Benefit Johnny Cash tribute concert to feature Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow, Lucinda Williams, others

A benefit Johnny Cash tribute concert, to be held April 20, 2012 in Austin, Texas, has confirmed appearances set for Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow.

The “We Walk The Line: A Celebration of the Music of Johnny Cash” show will also include Lucinda Williams, Shooter Jennings, Jamey Johnson, Chris Cornell, John Hiatt, Ronnie Dunn, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Kenny Chesney, Kris Kristofferson, Ray LaMontagne and Amy Lee.

The Austin event is part of a flurry of activity surrounding Cash’s 80th birthday, including a museum dedicated to his life and the release of Bootleg Vol. IV: The Soul of Truth, a 2-CD, 51-track collection of gospel and spiritual recordings from the 1970s and ’80s. The country and rockabilly legend died at 71 of complications from diabetes in 2003.

The new Cash museum — brainchild of Cash collector and Web site manager Bill Miller — is set to open later this year in the tourist-focused Lower Broadway section of Nashville. A number of items from the now-closed House of Cash, located in nearby Henderson, Tennessee, will be moved to this new site. Meanwhile, groundbreaking on the project to preserve Cash’s childhood home in Dyess, Ark., took place on February 26, Cash’s birthday.

A portion of proceeds from the “We Walk The Line: A Celebration of the Music of Johnny Cash” concert will be donated to Charley’s Fund, which helps in the fight against the fatal children’s disease, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Tickets for the concert, to be held the Austin City Limits Live venue’s Moody Theatre, are available by calling 877-4-FLYTIX. For more, visit www.johnnycash80.com.

Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow, Shooter Jennings, Lucinda Williams and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

WAYLON JENNINGS AND WILLIE NELSON – LIVE AT THE US FESTIVAL 1983 (2012): Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson took the stage of the 1983 US Festival as confirmed crossover country stars — but without all of the sell-out slickness that’s attached to the term these days. No, Jennings and Nelson were unreconstructed rebels, each in their own fashion. You had Nelson, the cookie-cutter song plugger-turned-shaggy dog superstar. And Jennings, the rough-hewn outlaw playing by his own rules. Yet both had experienced, to that point, a series of unheard-of successes for musicians in their chosen genre.

FORGOTTEN SERIES: LUCINDA WILLIAMS – ESSENCE (2001): Lucinda Williams brings a brave, riveting vulnerability to Essence — and, for me, it’s her masterpiece. Yet you are more apt to find it in the cutout bin at a big-box department store than at the top of most people’s desert-island lists. Perhaps the sensual melancholy of Essence was too personal, maybe it held too much dark intrigue. She takes chances lyrically, and there’s this hard-bitten musical sparseness, notable in the wake of 1998′s more narrative Grammy-winning breakthrough “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.” That very interior complexity, the way even now it keeps revealing new layers, is what keeps me coming back to this record. There is a stark, sometimes scary, confessional honesty that recalls Neil Young’s “Tonight’s the Night,” but with an expansive, Daniel Lanois-esque atmosphere provided by guitarist and co-producer Charlie Sexton. Pulling in elements of folk, country, blues and rock, but never quite settling, Williams’ music is as intricately absorbing as her storytelling.

ONE TRACK MIND: SHOOTER JENNINGS, “OUTLAW YOU” (2012): An advance single for his upcoming March 2012 album Family Man, the song finds Shooter Jennings ranting about the current crop of manufactured outlaws in Nashville and defending his father and the others that led the charge in the movement years ago. Jennings uses an ingenious approach to the subject, actually delivering it among the trappings of some of the industry’s current radio fare. There’s some rock and even hip-hop influence in the music, and there are hooks galore. It’s an earworm that sticks with you after the first listen. But there’s a difference. There’s soul and feeling in the song that’s missing from much of the Nashville fare.

CAROLINA CHOCOLATE DROPS – LEAVING EDEN (2012): The Carolina Chocolate Drops, despite their rocket-ride to Grammy fame in 2010, hadn’t yet made an album that captured their live set’s boot-scooting, blues-belting string-band revivalist verve — until now. Producer Buddy Miller brings a candle-lit ambiance to the proceedings, allowing the band to wander ever deeper into backwoods musical influences from across the Deep South. Again stirring in so-called “black” and “white” traditions alike, the forthcoming Leaving Eden is just as ear-ticklingly impressive as 2010′s Genuine Negro Jig — but far more rustic, more present.

FORGOTTEN SERIES: SHERYL CROW – C’MON C’MON (2002): I wasn’t a big Sheryl Crow fan going into C’mon C’mon, but I quickly began to get with the program. Those who hadn’t cared much for her work before may want to give this one a go; it might change your mind, as well. By this point, her songwriting had really matured, and she surrounded herself with an excellent cast. I’d have to say that all 13 cuts are strong without filler, and that’s rare enough these days to recommend an album wholeheartedly. I liked it the first time out, which I don’t often do. Better yet, it’s stood the test of time.

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