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Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash

Walk Alone (Ultimatum Music)

If you dare call yourself a bastard son of Johnny Cash, you better say it with a smile. Better yet: You best get the blessing of The Man in Black himself. The eponymous band has been twice blessed by Cash -- the first time at the group's inception in 1995, when the country legend approved the name against the advice of "his people," and second, when John Carter Cash (a nonbastard son of Johnny's) made a friendly appearance at a Nashville gig last year.

Hailing from San Diego, the Bastard Sons clearly embrace their border-town origins. On the band's cover of Merle Haggard's "Silver Wings" and "Lonesome Sky," shades of nearby Tijuana can be detected in the prevailing, stark, boom-chicka-boom aesthetic. Head Bastard and vocalist/ songwriter Mark Stuart (a baritone, naturally, but not as deep a one as the Hollisters' Mike Barfield) envisions Walk Alone as a sort of cosmic road trip through the great Southwest, a sun-scorched pleasure land of roaring big rigs, glittering wings and whitewall tires thrumming on sizzling blacktops.

Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash: As legitimate as California country gets.
Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash: As legitimate as California country gets.

As they head out on the road, the Bastards hope to overcome the national bias against California country. To many casual fans, the concept of Golden State country, especially if it be from that southern half of the state that's not Bakersfield, is as gooey as sun-baked bubble gum. Think the dreaded "Horse with No Name," the Eagles' sappier offerings, the whole nicotine-free 1970s L.A. Chardonnay-sipping mellow-rama. But as the band's name and this album clearly state, treacliness is not a problem with the Bastards, and San Diego seems by the sound of things to be spiritually much farther from L.A. than any worldly map would indicate.

 
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