August 2002 • Rockbites Alternative Daily

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The Bastard Sons Of Johnny Cash wind it up on new LP
29 August 2002
Never mind the country-tinged rock. Here’s thrash-tinged country.

This week, San Diego country rock outfit The Bastard Sons Of Johnny Cash released their third CD, which in a sense is their first proper album.
    Front man/songwriter Mark Stuart launched the band back in ’95 and for four years played & recorded with a rotating lineup—resulting in a 1999 debut mini-LP titled Lasso Motel, an uneven collection of nine demos and more-polished work. Culver City, California alt-rock label Ultimatum Music (J Mascis, Incredible Moses Leroy, Sugarcult) re-released the set in 2000 with three more tracks and again with an additional two (produced by Johnny’s son John Carter Cash) in 2001 under the title Walk Alone.
    This week’s release, Distance Between, is far more finished and cohesive despite trading a strong traditional country-western focus for variety—stylistically evoking Bruce Springsteen, U2, and even Hüsker Dü. There’s just about as much noise guitar here as pedal steel. Hey, Stuart moved toward country after playing punk in his high school band, The X-Offenders.
    But, throughout Distance Between, Stuart’s affecting lyrics and Elvis vibrato bring it home that the band approach such diverse targets with a country soul. Side two’s opener, Wind It Up, is impeccable thrash-tinged country, while the next track, the whimsical Marfa Lights, is the perfect country complement to Hüsker Dü’s Books About UFOs, from their 1985 album New Day Rising.
    BSOJC now comprise Stuart on vocals, acoustic, and electric guitars; Deane Cote on guitar; Clark Stacer on bass, and Joey Galvan on drums. Mark Howard, who has worked with Emmylou Harris, U2, and Bob Dylan, produced the set’s 12 tracks—which include the Appalachian traditional song (previously covered, separately, by Johnny Cash and Lefty Frizzell) Long Black Veil.
    Distance Between is not druggy or urban or experimental enough to bear the tag 'alt country,' nor is it cheesy enough to be mistaken for redneck country—although it clearly has one foot in each world. If you can listen through such expectations and take this LP on its own terms, not getting hung up on the fact that Stuart and company are simply here for the songs and not to make a fashion statement, you’ll find a delicately balanced album bursting with strong, emotional lyrics and impassioned playing. Three bites out of five.

Rockbites ratings  5: life changing, 4: stunning, 3: captivating, 2: amusing, 1: annoying.

| The Bastard Sons Of Johnny Cash | | BSOJC on Ultimatum Music | | CD from Amazon US | | top of page |


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