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Channeling Johnny Cash on The Midnight Special

American singer-songwriter Johnny Cash

American singer-songwriter Johnny Cash

Look Again to the Wind on The Midnight Special, Saturday at midnight

LookAgainOctober marks the 50th anniversary of the Johnny Cash concept album Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian, a collection of songs intended to raise awareness of the plight of the native American. In typical “Man in Black” fashion, Cash eschewed the musical trends of the day – and even the societal trends – to identify a minority who needed a voice in the American Civil Rights Movement.


The cover of Johnny Cash’s 1964 album, “Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian”

50 years later, a collection of major recording artists assembled over several days, collaborating and playing for one another, to re-record the tracks of Bitter Tears as a tribute to Johnny Cash and the struggle for civil rights, which according to producer Joe Henry, is “still unresolved” in this country. Artists on the new album titled Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited include Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Steve Earle, Norman and Nancy Blake, Bill Miller, Sam Bush, and Kris Kristofferson.

Every once in awhile I come across a CD that demands to be heard as a whole. The concept of this CD, the poignancy of its songs, and the sincerity and depth of the performances compelled me to offer it the way Johnny Cash originally intended. Even though Cash was one of the great performers of the 20th Century, the variety of voices on this new reinterpretation of his concept makes the recording even more interesting.

—Rich Warren, host of The Midnight Special


Emmylou Harris


Bitter Tears, which came out in 1964, followed Cash’s first concept album, Songs of Our Soil (1959) on death and mortality; predating other popular concept albums, including The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds (1966) and The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). Peter LeFarge, the principal songwriter on Bitter Tears is one of the few native American folksinger/songwriters.
Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisted

(complete album presented with permission of Sony Music / Masterworks), Masterworks 88843-06067-2

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings: “As Long As the Grass Shall Grow” (9:11) (Peter LaFarge, arr.Welch-Rawlings)


Gillian Welch

Emmylou Harris w/Patrick Warren, piano, “Apache Tears” (3:33) (John R. Cash)

Steve Earle: “Custer” (2:58) (Peter LaFarge)

Nancy Blake w/Norman Blake, David Rawlings, “The Talking Leaves” (6:11) (John R. Cash)


Kris Kristofferson

Kris Kristofferson: “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” (3:44) (Peter LaFarge)

Norman and Nancy Blake, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings: “Drums” (5:59) (Peter LaFarge)


Steve Earle

Gillian Welch & David Rawlings: “Apache Tears” (reprise) (2:57) (John R. Cash)

Kenneth Peggengale, Joey Ryan, “White Girl” (3:44) (Peter LaFarge)

Rhiannon Giddens, et. al.: “The Vanishing Race” (6:14) (Johnny Horton, add.lyrics Rhiannon Giddens, arr. R.Giddens)

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, w/Norman & Nancy Blake: “As Long As the Grass Shall Grow” (reprise) (3:29) (Peter LaFarge)

Bill Miller and Sam Bush: “Look Again to the Wind” (4:21) (Peter LaFarge)

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