Kindred Spirits—A Tribute to the Songs of Johnny Cash

In his 70th year, Johnny Cash has been covered, smothered, reissued, and well-feted, but what separates this collection from the many that bear Cash's name this year is the simple fact that it salutes

In his 70th year, Johnny Cash has been covered, smothered, reissued, and well-feted, but what separates this collection from the many that bear Cash's name this year is the simple fact that it salutes Cash the songwriter. A farflung bunch does the honors, from Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen to relatives like Rosanne Cash and Janette Carter—and for the most part, they nail it. Dwight Yoakam twangs with authority on "Understanding Your Man," and daughter Roseanne lends a loungey feel to a gorgeous "I Still Miss Someone." Travis Tritt's "I Walk the Line" is a slow burn, Hank Williams Jr. delivers a confident, muscular take on "Big River" that's a definite highlight, and Keb' Mo' gets points for inspired musicianship on "Folsom Prison Blues" but loses more for messing with one of the greatest lines in country music history. Charlie Robison brings edge to "Don't Take Your Guns to Town," Steve Earle reminds us he really can sing on a respectful "Hardin Wouldn't Run," and Marty Stuart's rumbling production is inspired. In total, this project stands out in a crowded marketplace.—RW