Celebrating the belated 80th birthday of Johnny Cash, a renowned cast of musicians and a theater full of fans joined together in Austin’s Moody Theater for a night of glorious tribute.
Backed by the talented house band (Don Was, Buddy Miller, Greg Leisz, Ian McLagan, Kenny Aronoff) to keep the signature Johnny Cash, train-like sound, Brandi Carlile kicked off the evening with “Folsom Prison Blues” – usually reserved for an encore in her shows, the energy set the bar high for the rest of the evening.
Andy Grammar and Amy Lee (of Evanescence) followed with their respective takes on “Get Rhythm” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” before Buddy Miller stepped into the spotlight, taking lead vocals on “Hey Porter.”
Shelby Lynne’s soulful, gospel stylings on “Why Me Lord?” balanced the fiery back-and-forth she later shared with Train’s Pat Monahan on “It Ain’t Me Babe.”
While Jamey Johnson was joined by Kris Kristofferson on “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” the newly-reconfigured Carolina Chocolate Drops wowed with their string-filled version of “Jackson” before Rhett Miller closed the first set with his band’s namesake tune – “Wreck of the Old ’97.”
Ronnie Dunn and his mariachi duo performed “Ring of Fire” before Matthew McConaughey (who was the event’s MC) talked his way through “The Man Comes Around.”
Amy Nelson and Shooter Jennings kept true to their musical heritage, rocking through “Cocaine Blues” as if they had lived the story themselves.
Lucinda Williams left the audience stunned with “Hurt,” performed with as much angst and gravel as one could expect from Ms. Williams.
Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) covered the great paying-for-crimes-of-passion-and-otherwise song “Long Black Veil” (another not written but made popular by Johnny Cash) before the huge stars rolled out. And by huge stars we mean Kristofferson (“Big River”), Sheryl Crow (“Cry, Cry, Cry” and a slightly-awkward “If I Was A Carpenter” with Willie), Willie Nelson (“I Still Miss Someone”) and the “new” Highwaymen – Kristofferson, Nelson, Johnson and Jennings.
As the show drew to a close, the stage was flooded with all the talent for “I Walk the Line.”
Photos by Nichole Wagner