Johnny Cash might have passed away, but that’s no reason to cancel his birthday party.
On Feb. 24, for the second time since Cash’s death in 2003, the posthumous “Cash Bash” will take place at Southpaw in Park Slope. Organized by local country music macher Alex Battles, the event is part of a surprisingly large scene that’s bringing Brooklyn that much closer to Biloxi.
“Johnny Cash is a great country music ice-breaker,” Battles told GO Brooklyn this week. “But we hope that by doing this people will notice the new music we’re making.”
The “we” Battles refers to is a group of New York singer-song writers — some performing at the Cash Bash — each working to put Brooklyn on the country music map. Battles’s own band, Whisky Rebellion, is among the leaders of the pack.
At the Cash Bash, though, it’s all about the Man in Black.
“When it gets time for my band, there’s no time for anything but Johnny Cash,” said Battles. “We have to get everything in that people want to hear.”
Whisky Rebellion will provide constant backing for Battles and a line-up of special guest singers including Jessica Rose, Louisiana Emily, Kara Suzanne, Eli Smith and s.a.m. In addition, the Dock Oscar Gospel Quartet will lend their soulful sound for Cash classics such as “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”
New to this year’s Bash, film curator Clinton McClung will kick off the evening with a selection of rare Johnny Cash film clips and television appearances. Following McClung are the Lonesome Prairie Dogs, a quartet with a strong vintage sound.
Battles, an Ohio transplant, is known for bringing Brooklynites the country music they want to hear. In addition to organizing the Cash Bash, he hosts concerts and old-timey jams throughout Brooklyn on a regular basis.
In fact, in September, Southpaw hosted his Third Annual Country Music Festival, an all-day event with acts on the main stage, the downstairs lounge and even the sidewalk. Now a seasoned emcee, he plans to run his part of the Bash like an old-style Opry.
This reporter first learned what Battles was up two nearly two years ago when, stepping out of a South Slope apartment late one night, the sounds of banjos and guitars came pouring out of the bar across the street. Intrigued, I pushed my way through the smokers huddled outside to discover a mix of hipsters, Yuppies and old-timers jamming on acoustic instruments. Musicians walked on and off stage between Cash and Hank Williams numbers and took the mic when the music — or the beer — moved them.
What I had accidentally discovered was the CasHank Hootenanny Jamboree, a monthly acoustic jam session on the last Thursday of every month at Buttermilk Bar, organized by Battles and dedicated to country classics.
While my stage fright and half-hearted attempts to learn the guitar have relegated me to a little tambourine banging and back-up singing, I’ve watched the CasHank grow from a small jam to a destination event with a packed stage and standing-room only.
Now billed as a semi-acoustic jam session — a few of the guitars are hooked up to amplifiers — the CasHank now features a pre-jam performance, showcasing a different up-and-coming country act each month.
Despite the stigma of country music not being for city folks, Doug DeFalco, the head booker for JELLYNYC, a collective that books shows at Southpaw and other venues around the city, is convinced that country is becoming an integral part of the New York music scene and is impressed with Battles’s promotion of other country acts.
Though the Man in Black is no longer with us, his influence has definitely found a home in Brooklyn and plenty of locals, it seems, are more than happy to follow in his footsteps and walk the line.
The Johnny Cash 75th Birthday Bash begins at 8 pm on Feb. 24 at Southpaw (125 Fifth Ave. at St. John’s Place in Park Slope.) Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. For information call (718) 230-0236 or visit www.spsounds.com.
Brooklyn CasHank begins at 8 pm on Feb. 22 at Buttermilk Bar (577 Fifth Ave. at 16th Street in Park Slope). No cover. For information call (718) 788-6297 or visit www. brooklyncountrymusic.com.
NYC Opry begins at 8 pm on Feb. 23 at Ace of Clubs (9 Great Jones St. at Lafayette Street in Manhattan). Tickets are $8. For information call (212) 677-6963 or visit www.brooklyncountrymusic.com.
©2007 Community News Group
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