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What is the Matrix? (05/14/99) Write to CD Shakedown

Press OnJune Carter Cash, Press On (Risk Records 1999) - June Carter Cash, wife of Johnny Cash and an esteemed performer in her own right, delivers a heartfelt acoustic recording in Press On. Featuring 13 tracks - some old, some new - June Carter displays her talent, spirituality and spunk.

NOTE - In early 2003, the Grammy-award winner was re-released on Dualtone Records. Good job.

June Carter Cash began performing in the 1930's with the historic original Carter Family. By the 1950's, June was one of country's brightest stars, performing throughout American with such talents as Hank Williams, Patsy Cline and Elvis Presley.

June and Johnny in 1999 Then, in 1961, she hooked up as a singer/comedian on the hard-traveling "Johnny Cash Show." She prayed over Johnny and she prayed around Johnny and she prayed with Johnny, until Johnny found salvation. "June saved my life," he says simply. One night, he proposed, on stage. And she married him on March 1, 1968.

June has six daughters from her first marriage (Carlene, Rosie, Rosanne, Kathy, Cindy, and Tara) and one son with Johnny. Press On is an acoustic recording made with Marty Stuart and Rodney Crowell (both ex-sons-in-law), together with Norman Blake on guitar, Dave Roe on bass, and Rick Lonow on drums and percussion.

The album includes a great gallery of photos, together with June's homespun and friendly liner notes. The album features June's faithful version of "Ring of Fire" (a love song she wrote for Johnny), the touching "Far Side Banks of Jordan" (a duet with Johnny), and "Losin' You."

June Carter CashThroughout all is June's voice, part country, a little hillbilly, and all original. Also included is "Tiffany Anastasia Lowe," a song June wrote after she and Johnny had rubbed elbows with director Quentin Tarantino. The album concludes with the Carter family classic, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."

1998 was a strange and exhilarating year for June: dealing with Johnny's illness (he suffers from a rare and debilitating disease called Shy Drager Syndrome, which affects his neuromuscular system); the death of her sister, Helen Carter; her silver screen role in Robert Duvall's The Apostle; and the recording of Press On, her first solo effort in years.

Some of the best albums released this year have been indie productions. Add Press On to that list. Press On is a huge show of faith and confidence, as well as an acknowledgment of inevitability of human mortality. June Carter's the real deal, and has earned her place in American music history.

Matrix soundtrackSoundtrack to the Matrix (Maverick 1999) - Maverick Records always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Witness the Matrix, the soundtrack to the futuristic action adventure movie starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss. Challenging the boundaries between technology and reality, between dream life and the afterlife, "The Matrix" roars through to its exciting conclusion.

The soundtrack captures the disturbing yet electrifying, non-stop roller coaster ride mood of the film with artists such as Marilyn Manson ("Rock is Dead"), Prodigy ("Mindfields"), Deftones ("My Own Summer (Shove It)"), Rob Zombie ("Dragula - Hot Rod Herman Remix"), Ministry ("Bad Blood"), Rage Against the Machine ("Wake Up"), and Rammstein ("Du Hast").

Matrix movieExplains Jason Bentley, music supervisor for the film, "The songs in the soundtrack were selected to present the mood and ideas in the film. Eight of the 13 tracks in the soundtrack are heard in the film."

Adds Bentley, "The aggressive techno-driven songs on the soundtrack are quite appropriate. It was a great collaboration with the directors to mix the ideas and put the right songs against the images and moods in the movie."

Soundtrack to the Matrix is exactly as billed: Exciting, adventurous and techno-driven. Like the first Batman movie, Matrix has a dark, underlying noir theme. Chalk up another hit for Maverick Records.

Excello RecordsThe Excello Story (Hip-O Records 1999) - The Excello Story is an ambitious 4-CD set chronicling the history of Nashville-based Excello Records, a pioneering soul and black blues indie label. Featuring songs by Slim Harpo (including "I'm a King Bee" and "Rainin in My Heart"), Lightnin' Slim ("Rooster Blues") and Arthur Gunter ("Baby Let's Play House"), the set unearths gems from this Nashville pioneer.

Slim HarpoFounded in 1952 by Ernie Young, Excello began as a gospel label. However, it quickly expanded into blues, R&B, and rockabilly before carving out its own niche as a force behind "Swamp Blues." Excello's influence was widespread, as its recordings were later covered by artists ranging from Elvis Presley to the Rolling Stones.

Lightnin' SlimI prefer the recordings from the late 50's, which include such do-wop influenced numbers as "Rollin' Stone" by the Marigolds, as well as the Delta blues of Little Al ("No Jive" and "Little Lean Woman"). Also listen for the slow-down soul of Guitar Gable & King Karl on "Irene."

The packaging for the set is surprising: I would have expected this to be released as a 4-CD box set, rather than as individual disks (each with 20 tracks). For a comprehensive look at this proud independent, try The Excello Story.

- Randy Krbechek © 1999

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