Sunday, September 1, 2013

Johnny Cash: God's Gonna Cut You Down

Recorded shortly before his death in September 2003, Johnny Cash’s version of the traditional gospel song “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” is quite different than previous versions of the song. It was released in 2006 on the posthumous CD release “American V: A Hundred Highways.”

Odetta’s 1956 version is a cappella and continually gets faster as the song progresses and has its roots in field hollers that were the roots of Southern Blues. Elvis’ version from 1967 was titled as “Run On” and his treatment with the Jordanaires was in a Southern Gospel vein. There is a minimalistic approach to Johnny Cash’s version.

Although not as sparse as Odetta’s recording, the Johnny Cash version includes several guitars, foot stomps, hand claps, and a jaw harp. It is slower than either Odetta’s or Elvis’ recording. Others (such as Moby) recorded the song prior to Cash; however, these versions probably held no influence on Cash’s interpretation.

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