When the rumors became official about one of my heroes, Johnny Cash biopic being made I was skeptical at best. Let’s face it, biopics rarely standup to reality and become a disaster full of controversy. Furthermore, when it was reported that the film’s stars, Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon would be singing all the parts of Johnny and June Carter Cash, I had lost all hope.
But as the saying goes, never judge a book by its cover.
The James Mangold-directed “Walk the Line” was released September 4, 2005 and went on to win and Oscar for Witherspoon for Best Actress. Phoenix was also nominated for Best Actor and Arianne Phillips was nominated for Best Costume Design.
The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack for “Walk the Line” featured 16 classic songs from the biographical film and was originally released November 15, 2005. Now, with the resurgence of vinyl, “Walk the Line” is being released on 180-gramm black vinyl.
Phoenix performs seven songs as Johnny Cash, while two songs were performed by Witherspoon as June Carter Cash. The duo come together for a pair of duets. Shooter Jennings contributes the somber “I’m a Long Way from Home” as his father Waylon Jennings. In addition, Johnathan Rice plays “You’re My Baby” as Roy Orbison; Waylon Payne rocks “Lewis Boogie” as Jerry Lee Lewis; And Tyler Hilton gets his hips swiveling with “That’s All Right” and “Milk Cow Blues” as Elvis Presley.
But the focus here, as it should be, is on Phoenix and Witherspoon. Phoenix matches Cash note for note on the rockabilly classic “Get Rhythm;” nails the big hits “I Walk the Line,” “Ring of Fire,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” and breathes new life in to the rarity “Home of the Blues” Witherspoon beautifully pays tribute to June carter Cash on the lovely “Wildwood Flower” and sassy “Juke Box Blues.” As in real life, the peak of the album is when Phoenix and Witherspoon team up for the playful duets “It Ain’t Me Babe” and “Jackson.”
Of course, the original performances are best, but you got to step back and acknowledge how on par Phoenix and Witherspoon are with their vocals on these legendary songs.