Johnny Cash's Younger Brother Gets the Reissue Treatment

Tommy Cash, Rise and Shine/Six White Horses [Omni Recording Corporation]

Johnny Cash’s younger brother, Tommy, never made music anywhere near as distinctive as that of his mercurial, adventurous sibling. Nor is he a brilliant, borderline jazzy singer in the Merle Haggard mode—which makes his decision to cover so many Haggard songs on these two 1969 albums baffling. Still, as this reissue shows, Tommy did have something to offer despite his limitations. His smooth baritone—as reminiscent of Waylon as of that other Cash—is sturdy and pleasant, and when he picks the right song, his clumsy phrasing can be charmingly effective. He’s also got a sense of humor, and the best moments on the album are all light-hearted. “The Honest Truth,” built around some nice Bakersfield guitar-picking, tells a sad tale of staying out too late, ending as the wife empties a six-shooter. (Yes, you hear all six shots.) “Don’t Hold Your Breath” weds a lovely folk tune to mean-spirited put-downs in a way that big bro must have appreciated. Sententious tripe like “So You’re Tired of America” and “Six White Horses” are harder to take, but even those are given a smooth, tuneful gloss by fine session playing and Glenn Sutton’s smoothly inventive countrypolitan production. This Cash isn’t a genius, but if you’re a fan of ’60s and ’70s country, he’s worth checking out.

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