From Night One, No 2 Unalike, November 4th, 2015 @ Fergie's Pub Johnny Cash's “Big River and my own “Be Passersby"
Cash. What can you say? A giant. I saw him before he got into what Bob Dylan called all that "lowgrade and notorious" stuff with Rick Rubin. 1988 @ the Ritz in NYC. Cash was still doing his family revue show. The lowlight of the evening was hearing the great man sing "Cat's in the Cradle" with John Carter, Jr. The highlight: John Prine's opening set.
In any case, here's a version of John Train doing Cash's Big River at Ferg's back in 2010. I really like this video as it captures the wild abandon of our performances over there. Check out guest spots by Chris Palmer on piano and Jon Jolles on harp. Jolles was one of the "five nighters" at No 2 Unalike i.e. a real glutton for punishment who attended all five shows, all ten sets, all 150 songs. I asked Jolles if he thought No 2 Unalike was worse for the band or the audience. Without a moment's hesitation, he stated: "The audience." Jolles also told me that he wanted to get through all of No 2 Unalike because, if he did, he thought there would be nothing in life that he couldn't get through -- no matter how tragic, annoying, etc.
I paired Big River with my own song Be Passersby. The latter was originally written in a pop sorta vein but we couldn't find a suitable arrangement. So I took it home after rehearsal and reworked it into a Cash-like honky tonker. It even contains that little guitar riff that anchors down Big River.
The lyric was inspired by Kerouac's Desolation Angels. This is where I first heard the expression "Be Passersby". Kerouac took it from the Gospel according to St. Thomas, from what I understand. I don't read that jazz. I'll take my religion straight from Jack'n'Neal, thank you.
- Jon Houlon
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