This week on the music beat

Kindred Spirits: A Tribute to the Songs of Johnny Cash

JOHNNY BE GOOD For the second year in a row, a tribute album may win the Grammy for Best Country Album. The 2001 prize went to Timeless: Hank Williams Tribute, featuring Lucinda Williams and Beck. This year’s contender could be a star-studded collection feting the songs of Johnny Cash (who covered ”I Dreamed About Mama Last Night” for Timeless). Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Sheryl Crow performed Cash classics for the as-yet-untitled album, due out this fall. ”Johnny Cash is everything,” says contributor Little Richard, noting the diverse lineup, which also includes bluesman Keb’ Mo’ on a slowed-down ”Folsom Prison Blues” and Travis Tritt on a twangy ”I Walk the Line.” ”He’s rock & roll, and he’s country. And then you hear some rhythm & blues. And he’s gospel. He’s in all of it, and he’s good in all of it.” Dwight Yoakam, whose version of ”Understand Your Man” opens the album, says he owes his career to Cash. ”My earliest musical memories have Johnny Cash in them,” he says. ”The first album I ever put on a turntable by myself was Johnny Cash’s The Songs That Made Him Famous. I’ve always viewed him alongside Elvis Presley as one of the icons of American music. I never qualified it by saying he’s a country icon — he’s truly an American icon.”

ATHLETIC SUPPORT Tired of the Ace of Base medley piped into your gym? Well, the Crunch chain of fitness centers apparently saw the signs of its members’ discontent and partnered with hip electronica imprint George V (home to the Buddha Bar series) to provide better muscle tones. The label recently began programming the gyms’ sound systems with propulsive tracks by the likes of Basement Jaxx, Manu Chao, Masters at Work, Nas, Nappy Roots, X-ecutioners, Bill Withers, and Beth Orton. ”We sat down with them and designed a playlist targeted toward the workout rooms,” says John Pace, vice president of George V. ”In the mornings, the music is a little lighter, in the afternoon it gets a little stronger, and then by evening, it really starts pumping.” Soon, the gyms will begin selling recent George V releases like this year’s Chill Out in Paris 2 and Buddha Bar IV. Next year, the label will peddle Crunch-branded CDs. Chances are they won’t be calling the series Crunch Bar.

Kindred Spirits: A Tribute to the Songs of Johnny Cash
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