The Survivors Live

As Johnny Cash's slyly funny liner notes explain, this legendary trio's impromptu show in Stuttgart, Germany, last April is a first-take, unrehearsed affair — the three all just happened to be playing at a European music festival. Each man sings at least one signature tune (e.g., Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes") and they team up on several ready-at-hand chestnuts from country music's public domain of warmhearted cornpone ("That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine") and old-time religion ("I Saw the Light").

The results are mixed. Cash, as always, sounds like a comfortable, potent icon. Stuttgart was his date, and he runs the show, cooing to his cronies and speaking to the crowd in knock-kneed German. Perkins huffs through his vocal turns, shaky though somehow compelling. But it's when Cash brings on "das best" — Jerry Lee Lewis — that things really heat up. Lewis' pumping piano invigorates the band and — just as when he vied to dominate Sun Records' Million Dollar Quarter with Perkins, Cash and Elvis Presley twenty-six years ago — his self-involved hollering makes for some real excitement.

From The Archives Issue 730: March 21, 1996
x