I've been asked to fill in as guest columnist and talk about something that's been on my chest for a while. I'm sick and tired of being looked down upon for being a proud American. I remember around this time last year I was driving my yellow '77 Camaro around Capitol Hill, when some pinko jerk-off drives up in a Jetta and spits on my window. At first, I figured I must have nailed his girlfriend, and I got really pissed. Then it hit me. As he was driving up, he had seen my "Iran Sucks" bumper sticker. Dummy didn't realize at the time that Iran was harnessing nuclear energy. Because everyone knows that besides the countries we think are cool, America is the only gal ordained by Jesus to split atoms.
As another one of our supersweet American inventions, country music is celebrated this July Fourth with the release of Johnny Cash's last ever recording, American V: A Hundred Highways. Johnny Cash was a Christian. He even went so far as to travel with the Rev. Billy Graham preaching the word of Jesus. That's one of the many things that made him cool. Deal with it. Highways contains the last song Cash ever wrote, "Like the 309," which incorporates one of his favorite settings, trains: "Everybody take a look/See I'm doin' fine/Then load my box/On the 309." Gordon Lightfoot's beautiful ballad "If You Could Read My Mind" is another standout of the many cover songs on the album. While Cash's voice deteriorated over his last few years, he holds his own on this track, adding a haunting element to the song.
Also out is the new Gram Parsons box, The Complete Reprise Sessions, on Rhino. It's my belief that had Gram lived as long as Cash, he would have shared some of the Man in Black's maturity. But when you're young, it's all about emotion; there is no time for the existential. Repackaged here are the two solo albums Parsons recorded, GP and Grievous Angel, each containing extra tracks plus interviews with the man himself. A bonus disc of unreleased alternate takes rounds out the package. The highlights of these records have always been the contributions of Emmylou Harris, Parson's mental and physical savior at the time. Harris produced this box, and her vocals on both albums are stellar. Already considered classics by country-rock fans, these new versions offer more insight into the legend that is Gram Parsons.
And by the time you read this, the U.S. will have advanced into the finals of the World Cup; and aside from the new Willie Nelson box set (reissues of unsung classics Phases & Stages and Shotgun Willie), that's one more thing to be proud of this Fourth.
Oh, and this just in: The pronunciation of July has just been changed to the Spanish: Julio.
Jed Maheu is a former Seattleite now living in Los Angeles.