July 17, 2016

Johnny Cash - Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian (1964)



Musically this isn't my favorite Cash album, but he certainly delivers. For those who don't know, this is an album of condemnation for and mourning of the treatment of Native Americans by European invaders. Country is not my favorite music genre overall (with powerful exceptions), but what I find far more concerning is the culture that surrounds the genre. Cash had the same concerns, justified when this album was ignored by country radio. Cash doesn't fit in with the disappointing country mindset of racism and conveniently ignoring this country's terrible history in favor of blind patriotism. I understand there are other exceptions to that mindset, but overall the fans and the music preach a disturbing message. To get back to this album specifically: this isn't a great background album, and Cash didn't want it to be. He wants you to hear the message, and it's well worth it. He often uses spoken word or a melodic speaking voice instead of a singing voice, which works well for the storytelling nature of the songs. It's a touching tribute to one of the races our nation has discriminated against and killed. Most importantly, it's a tribute to a history our nation has conveniently forgotten for the most part.

Sample

Bitter Tears