Fans of the legendary sounds of Johnny Cash won’t want to miss out on tribute band David James and Big River, landing at The Vat March 27.
James produces his own particular vocal originality. His take on Cash’s signature sound is nothing short of amazing in its similarity to the ‘Man in Black’. The vocals are spot on as is the swagger.
“It’s not only about the voice. It’s about living and breathing the man – his posture, his mannerisms, his moves, and his quirks,” explains James. “I want our audiences to go home feeling like they just observed the man himself.”
You’d swear it was the real Cash singing such classics as Folsom Prison Blues, Ring of Fire, I Walk the Line and Get Rhythm.
James was raised in Tofield. Country music was a mainstay amongst most of his friends and family – his father made it his mission to introduce James to artists he referred to as ‘the real deal’. That of course included artists like the legendary Cash. James admits he wasn’t a huge fan of Cash right from the get-go back in those days, but he always had a strong respect for the man.
And meanwhile, as he got a little older, heavier types of rock beckoned.
“I played in bands for years. And a lot of people said ‘You’ve got a great voice, Dave.’ It was a low voice. I told them it’s alright, I’ll sing country when I get older.
“Be careful what you say – the universe might just make it happen,” he adds with a laugh. One day, he caught the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line back in 2006, and something clicked. A love for the kinds of tunes Cash created was growing.
And it was also during this time that he was busy performing cover songs in bars and clubs throughout western Canada and beyond. After a show, James picked up his guitar at the bar and sang to a small after hours gathering.
After playing the last chord of Ring of Fire, he looked up from his guitar and everyone there sat with mouths open, speechless and stunned at what they had just witnessed. “What?” he asked, concerned that he had lost his touch.
The silence was broken by a guy at the bar.
“Are you Johnny’s twin?” he asked. “Because dude, this is what you should be doing.”
“I kind of slid into it naturally,” he explains of the later process of forming a tribute act to Cash. “I had naturally mimicking abilities.” But it’s been a process of perfecting the persona of the musician.
James nails Cash’s mannerisms and voice down pat. In fact, he was honoured to provide Cash’s voice to the soon to be released movie My Father and the Man in Black, proving he is the most authentic Johnny Cash tribute artist in the business.
As mentioned, he sings all of the great Cash songs including Solitary Man, Get Rhythm and newer songs like Hurt and Rusty Cage. And rounding out the guys in his band are Todd Sacerty, Colin Stevenson and Duncan Symonds.
Sacerty’s respect of the song-writing prowess of Cash is reflected in his playing and performance. As noted on James’ web site, “His firm belief in remaining true to the integrity of brilliantly written music is one of the primary reasons for the band’s success.”
Stevenson was “hand-picked” for his role as drummer.
“Cash was the man, it’s as simple as that,” said Stevenson. “We bring back to the people what they are missing since his death, and long may it continue.”
Symonds was born in Toronto. He moved to the west coast at an early age and soon after began his pursuit of music. He quickly became a fixture on the music scene, touring and recording with several successful acts.
As to the enduring quality of Cash’s many hits, James has his own theory.
“It’s honest music. It was not directed at rich folks and millionaires. It was just simple everyday stuff that a working man could relate to. Your standard working class folks.
“And of course, that’s the mass of the population.”