The Blackest of the Man in Black

Pinkus, Buzzo, Bad Seeds highlight new Cash tribute

The Blackest of the Man in Black

Johnny Cash’s most funereal material – songs of hard luck, murder, and sorrow – gets the spotlight on 5 Minutes to Live, a short-but-not-sweet tribute record spiked with appearances from scoundrel heroes of underground music.

“Gentleman” Jeff Pinkus, banjo pickin’ bassist of the Butthole Surfers and Honky, leads a grinning take of unreleased fuck-up anthem “The Losing Kind,” while Bad Seeds/Birthday Party multi-instrumentalist Mick Harvey cocks his pistol on the threatening “5 Minutes to Live,” title track for the Man in Black-starring 1961 cult film. That rounds out the front half of the four-song 12-inch released by San Antonio’s Saustex Records last Friday.

Fiddle mystic Warren Ellis (Bad Seeds, Dirty Three, Grinderman) lords over the stirring second side, which finds Memphis miscreant Joey Killingsworth singing murder ballad “The Sound of Laughter.” Then, fern-haired Melvins bellower Buzz Osborne sings a singularly moving version of the saddest song Cash ever covered: “Long Black Veil.”

Of course the most important appearance on 5 Minutes to Live is that of W.S. Holland, who drums on the quartet of cuts. “Fluke” Holland kept the beat for Johnny Cash nearly 40 years, anchoring the Tennessee Three, the Great Eighties Eight, and even the Million Dollar Quartet.

The wax arrives as a spiritual sequel to last year’s excellent Mutants of the Monster tribute to Black Oak Arkansas, also on Saustex as conceived/helmed by Killingsworth and his group Joecepus & the George Jonestown Massacre, which backs a cadre of high profile guest appearances. Killingsworth is donating all of his proceeds to the FSH Society, promoters of research and advocacy for facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy.

Cash completists and dwellers of country’s dark corners will want to check out 5 Minutes to Live, whose colored viny can be copped here. Take a listen to King Buzzo’s astonishing vocal on “Long Black Veil.”

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Johnny Cash, 5 Minutes to Live, W.S. Holland, Tennessee Three, Million Dollar Quartet, Jeff Smith, Saustex Records, Warren Ellis, Dirty Three, Grinderman, Jeff Pinkus, Butthole Surfers, Honky, Buzz Osborne, Melvins, Mick Harvey, Bad Seeds, Birthday Party, Joey Killingsworth, Joecepus & the George Jonestown Massacre

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