Johnny Cash lives in Leverkusen. Maybe I should qualify that statement ‘Johnny Cash lives in Leverkusen’. Bernd ‘Marty’ Wolf is the Leverkusener keeping the Man in Black’s memory very much alive by presenting his music in the Tribute Show ‘Just Cash’. The turnout at Harmonie showed that Cash’s music is as popular as ever here in Bonn , Where a lot of people were ready to walk the line back to Folsom Prison and share Johnny’s hurt once again. Wolf, who got to know Johnny as a translator during his German tours, proved to be the perfect guide for their journey, joined by the excellent Band Texas Heat.
In September it will be ten years since Johnny Cash passed away, but when Marty Wolf talks about the Man you get the feeling that he only spoke to Cash a week ago, only heard about his death yesterday. There’s emotion in his voice both when he talks and when he sings. The voice is more that of the ‘Ring of Fire’ era than the later recordings with Rick Rubin, but close your eyes when he and Jolina Carl sing ‘Darling Companion’ or ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ and you could be back at the Grand Ole Opry. The show was pretty much the same as that which came to Bonn last year, so my review for then SEE REVIEW HERE goes largely for this years’ show too. There were some small changes as in the addition of an excellent guitar and mandolin picker named Joe Anslik to replace Pit Lenz. Anslik is a super guitarist but, he added a little too much melody to the early Cash songs for my taste – I like my early Cash to be clean chicka-booms. He was excellent though adding color to the later numbers from the catalogue and the Grand Ole Opry melodies.
Also new this year were well deserved awards for both Jolina Carl (Best Female Singer) and Marty Wolf (Best song: ‘Hot & Blue Guitar’) at the German Country Music Awards – an indication of the calibre of people that make up this ‘Just Cash’ show. Otherwise no major changes from 2012 and why should there be? It’s pretty hard to criticize the musicianship, most of the songs are of course classics, and even when they’re written by Wolf and not Johnny , June or Carl Perkins, they’re prize winners. Ironic then that, as last year, the show stopper was neither a Cash nor a Wolf composition but one by ‘Nine Inch Nails’ – ‘Hurt’ has to be the last number in the set because, quite frankly, there is nothing that could adequately follow it. Was Cash’s life really as bleak as the song and the superb video? Well, the man who shot a man in Reno ‘Just to see him die’, never really spent time in jail, and Wolf remembered him from days interpreting for Cash in Germany as a man with a strong sense of humour and a ready laugh. On ‘That dark September day’ as Wolf describes it in a memorable song, there were it seems two men who died – one a family man and devout Believer named John and one a Country Music Legend and renegade named Cash.
Listening to the music, watching the film with Joaquin Phoenix as Cash SEE FILM REVIEW HERE , reading the books or attending a Texas Heat concert one thing is clear – there are no answers. What there is though, is magic. It rubbed off on Marty Wolf and if you attend a Texas Heat concert it will rub off on you too. Or as the line goes from ‘The Day Hank Williams came to town’:
“You get your money’s worth in the first ten minutes – and the rest of the show is free!”