The legacy of the Man In Black lives on
It’d be a rare talent to bring one of the most iconic musical legends back from the dead, let alone with the same level of performance gusto and class.
Thankfully, David James and his Big River Band have skipped the whole resurrection fiasco and delivered a tribute to Johnny Cash that’s the next best thing.
Dabbling in the world of rock-guitar from the age of 15, James discovered his more blues-y roots after a girl introduced him to the film Walk The Line.
“I just started singing along at one point and she stopped the movie,” said James. “She was like… ‘do that again’. So I did.”
It took some time before James recognized his vocal likeness to Johnny Cash.
“I went out and got some actual training at some point. I was invited to sing in a jazz vocal group, you would think I would have figured out by then that I was a vocalist.
“But I just kept going out and playing in rock bands.”
Researching Cash’s performance style, mannerisms and tone helped James hone down his tribute and give audiences a full-bodied, authentic experience.
“There’s been a big change in the voice. Adapting the Arkansas accent, and emulating different eras of his voice.”
“There was young-man Johnny, then middle-aged Johnny all messed up on dope, and then old-man Johnny with a kind of scarred voice at that point.”
The unique nature of James’ show lends itself to some pretty great stories.
“I had a fella get a hold of me saying, ‘my father passed two years ago and it’s my mom’s birthday on the night you’re playing. Would you play his guitar for a few songs?’ It was a beautiful old Gibson, and they brought a life-sized picture with the guitar. So I put it right beside me on stage.”
While fans can expect staples like ‘Walk The Line,’ ‘Ring of Fire,’ and ‘A Boy Named Sue,’ it’s the ad-lib stage banter and playful performance style that really sends the show to another level. “Johnny was very from-the-hip, so I script some of
the show and some it’s just from the hip. We’re gonna tell you some stories, we’re gonna sing you some of your favourite songs, we’re gonna take you on a little time-warp.”
Jasperites can catch David James and his Big River Band at the Legion on Mar. 3 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $35.
Tash Loh, special to the Fitzhugh