Blood, Sweat and Tears

Blood, Sweat and Tears

The songs on Blood, Sweat and Tears capture the struggles of the working man with a hard, often gritty edge. Johnny Cash’s performances are informed by his own upbringing as a sharecropper’s son—there’s a stubborn defiance mixed with compassion here that comes from real-life experience. He anchors the album in traditional ballads and laments like “The Legend of John Henry’s Hammer” (adapted by Cash and June Carter), “Casey Jones,” and “Another Man Done Gone.” Whether he’s taking the part of a migrant worker in Jimmie Rodgers’ “Waiting for a Train,” singing of the coal miner’s life in Merle Travis’ “Nine Pound Hammer,” or facing up to hard times in Harlan Howard’s “Busted,” Cash infuses his material with a wounded sort of heroism. His self-composed “Tell Him I’m Gone” stands out for its simmering anger and field holler–like arrangement. The album benefits from the participation of The Carter Family on five tracks, adding a touch of Appalachian folk to the sound. Rather than linking the tunes with spoken-word pieces, Cash lets the songs do the talking in spare, direct settings that bring out the suffering and resolve within each lyric.

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