Cash Unchained

Published on January 2nd, 2019

Cash Unchained

There are very few people who can capture energy. Without delving into poetics or proselytizing too much, Johnny Cash, the Man in Black, was one of those people. With each year since his passing in 2003 at age 71, Cash’s legacy continues to intensify and new fans hop aboard the blue train. It stands to reason that 15 years hence, Cash  idolatry should reach new heights.

And at that apex stands Cash Unchained: The Ultimate Johnny Cash Tribute,  fronted by teen-ager James Tamelcoff III and backed by “some of the finest musicians in the state of Virginia” in the role of Cash’s backing combo, the Tennessee Three.

The full quartet renders Cash’s legacy in a perfect baritone and the crisp boom-chicka-boom that underlines youthful Cash style. With one of the most diverse catalogues to pick from, it’s hard to comprehend how no one had tapped into this rich musical vein before with the gusto and energy these young guys bring to the stage.

And their youth is a testament to the captivating power of Cash’s music. Tamelcoff was a kindergartner at the time of Cash’s death. Yet by age 15 he was YouTubing full-dress Cash covers with just himself on voice and hollow body electric guitar.

So, where this band could be brushed off as nostalgia miners, it is important to make a hard distinction: This isn’t a sappy retread; this is music appreciation 101. They don’t replace Cash; they exalt his legacy through sight and sound by recreating the Arkansas-born icon’s early days on the road as a country and rockabilly tornado.

On the band website, Cash Unchained points out a simple truth: “Johnny Cash may not have been the greatest singer or musical technician, but his sound was unforgettable.” Having acknowledged this, Cash Unchained is free to perform in his honor. They are true to the formula but they are not robots operating on total recall. And they are fine musicians, re-delivering some of that singular Cash energy, which can only grow with guys like these bringing it to life night after night.

Cash Unchained: The Ultimate Johnny Cash Tribute at 7 pm on January 4 at Revolution Live, Ft. Lauderdale, $15/$17. ~ Abel Folgar

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