Disc Reviews: Supergrass and Johnny Cash

Cash was the address to go to in order to hear live contemporary performances in a pre-MTV era of television.

Johnny Cash 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Johnny Cash 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
SUPERGRASS Diamond Hoo Ha (Helicon) With a swaggering slice of retro-rock that might have the boys from Jet in opened-mouth awe, peppy British punk/pop trio Supergrass roars back to life on Diamond Hoo Ha, their first album in three years. Once the wunderkinds of Britpop, the band, led by guitarist/vocalist Gaz Coombes, has now been around for 14 years, so the novelty of kids barely out of their teens making music worthy of The Kinks and The Jam has worn away. What we're left with instead of youthful enthusiasm is mature finesse and craftsmanship, but not too much to hide the natural exuberance that Coombes and his bandmates bring to the material. The leadoff track, "Diamond Hoo Ha Man" is a ferocious '70s-style rock track built on an infectious White Stripes riff. It contrasts nicely with the Ray Davies-inflected pop confections "Rebel in You" and "When I Needed You." Perhaps the highlight is the charming "Ghost of a Friend," where Coombes alternates between channeling Paul Weller and Bob Dylan in mid-60s hipster mode to uncanny effect. Unfortunately, amid the gems, there's plenty of uninspired filler like the mistitled "Return of Inspiration" and the jittery "Rough Knuckles," and the novely-like "Whisky and Green Tea." Supergrass may no longer be capable of setting the charts, or hearts, on fire. But when all their cylinders are working, as they are on at least half of Diamond Hoo Ha, they still have enough embers in their souls to stoke the flames a bit. JOHNNY CASH The Best of the Johnny Cash TV Show (NMC) One of the highlights of the short two-season life of The Johnny Cash Show was the country legend's choice of musical talent. Aside from The Smothers Brothers Show, Cash was the address to go to in order to hear live contemporary performances in a pre-MTV era of television. His first guest in 1969, Bob Dylan, set the tone for Cash's knack to attract both traditional country stars and grittier, rock culture figures. Unfortunately, the Dylan-Cash duet is not one of the tracks offered on this 15-track sampler, which is heavy on the country, and light on the folk and rock. Heavyweights like Tammy Wynette, George Jones and Kris Kristofferson wheel out some of their better-known material, and Ray Charles's bluesy rendition of "Ring of Fire" is a keeper. Even rockers Derek and the Dominos with Eric Clapton don't sound out of place with their country blues "It's Too Late." But it's when Cash himself joins the festivities - like with Lynn Anderson on "I've Been Everywhere" and with folkie representative Joni Mitchell on Dylan's "Girl From the North Country" - that the collection transcends an ordinary compilation. A rousing finale featuring Cash, The Carter Family, The Statler Brothers and Carl Perkins on "Daddy Sang Bass" ends the festivities on a fitting festive note. If the CD sounds enticing, there's more. A two-DVD set is also available featuring 66 performances from the Cash program, presenting a veritable Woodstock of contemporary performers who at the dawn of the '70s were ready to take over the world.