‘Let The Sentence Fit The Crime’

The real world calls me away today: There are towels to wash, counters to clean and menus to plan, among other things. I’ll be back briefly Saturday morning, and I hope to return to this space next week with some new things to share both in text and music.

In the meantime, here’s another cover, though not one as unlikely as Tuesday’s. In 1983, a year after Bruce Springsteen released the song on Nebraska, Johnny Cash made “Johnny 99” the title track for an album on Columbia during the performer’s last years with that label. It was little noticed at the time, but in the years since, according to comments I’ve seen in numerous places, the album has become somewhat of a collector’s item, especially among Springsteen fans looking for the title track as well as Cash’s take on Springsteen’s “Highway Patrolman,” also from Nebraska.

Those are the two tracks that interested me when I first read about the album as few years ago, and after a little bit of digging, I learned that Koch Records had released a CD edition of the album in 1998. I also soon learned that copies of the CD were going for prices of anywhere from $25 to more than $100 online. (A few copies of the original 1983 vinyl available through Amazon are priced at $75 or more.) So I bided my time, and about a month ago, I spotted a copy online for about $12.

I still haven’t absorbed all of the CD yet, but Cash’s take on “Johnny 99” – and I’ve heard quite a few covers of the tune as well as Springsteen’s original – might be definitive.


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