“Cowboy” Jack Clement brought the rockabilly/hillbilly country roots of rock ‘n’ roll to Joe’s Pub Friday night, or as he unabashedly but accurately identified the genre, “s**tkicking music.”
The legendary singer-songwriter-producer, now 80 years young, was in fine voice, evoking a cross between Burl Ives and a less craggy Johnny Cash on Cash classics he wrote (“Guess Things Happen That Way,” “Ballad Of A Teenage Queen,” “Gone Girl”) as well as other great country songs and even samples of samba and polka.
He also engaged a discerning room with stories of such triumphs as the renowned “Million Dollar Quartet” of Sun Records stars Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley, whose impromptu 1956 session at Sun Studios in Memphis was recorded for posterity when Clement wisely decided to flip the tape machine switch. He recalled Sun owner Sam Phillips telling him, “There will come a time when these songs we’re doing will be in movies and Broadway–and now they’re in a Broadway play…and it’s a good one.”
He was referring, of course, to Million Dollar Quartet–the current Broadway musical based on the session, in which he performed as a special guest the previous evening. At Joe’s Pub he was accompanied by local country star Laura Cantrell and her band, which made for a memorable moment when he sang his classic “Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog,” for which the lovely Cantrell sweetly leaned into the mic to sing the “egg sucking dog” chorus. Clement appropriately paired it with “Flushed From The Bathroom Of Your Heart” as both songs, which he wrote, were performed consecutively by Cash in the landmark Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison album, thus becoming “my two biggest money-makers,” he said.
Other high points included Clement’s version of his composition “A Girl I Used To Know,” which was a big duet hit for Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton as “Just Someone I Used To Know”; an uptempo reading of the Rolling Stones’ “No Expectations”; the rockabilly “It’ll Be Me” (the B-side of Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Whole Lot Of Shakin’ Going On”) and “When I Dream,” which Clement released as a single just ahead of Crystal Gayle’s hit version–and which brought a smile from Cantrell when Clement soloed on air violin.
Cantrell, by the way, offered a great taste of her forthcoming album tribute to Kitty Wells, with “I Don’t Claim To Be An Agel,” and “Making Believe”–for which she earned a nice pat on the head from the master. Clement also gave a shout-out to Cantrell’s husband Jeremy Tepper, his “boss” at Sirius XM satellite radio’s Outlaw Country channel, where he hosts a show.
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