[6 December 2007]
These Johnny Cash Christmas Specials offer a country music time capsule from the 1970s. Belting out songs of the season with his usual suspects, Carl Perkins, the Carter Family, and the Statler Brothers, Cash the genial host is in fine voice. The specials highlight popular singers from the time (Tony Orlando, Barbara Mandrell) but also lively folk traditions and country chestnuts (Stephen Foster songs, Gene Autry’s Christmas hits like “Frosty the Snow Man”). Cash gives a tour of his Tennessee farm and welcomes viewers into his home for a “guitar pullin’” with his family and friends, replete with an inspirational story from Billy Graham. The stand out is the 1977 special from the Grand Ole Opry House, with his fiery duets with June Carter Cash and a truly historic tribute to Elvis, who had recently passed away, in which Cash’s fellow Sun Studio stars Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison join him, appropriately, for a gospel number, “This Train is Bound for Glory”. Available on DVD for the first time since they aired, these two hour-long specials area must-have for Cash loyalists but should also interest music fans more generally.