Johnny Cash
Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian



by PowerBlitz USER (11 Reviews)
December 14th, 2015 | 4 replies

Release Date: 1964 | Tracklist

Review Summary: One of the greatest country singers who ever lived, develops a drinking problem, believes he is a Native American, and sings about it.

When I first discovered this album, I thought this was probably just another one of the classic albums pertaining to the classic discography of the late Johnny Cash. I overlooked it, and continued listening to his early albums. However, I came across a buzzfeed article that contained the 100 most bizarre albums created. A lot of it was commercial stuff, a majority were things that I have never heard about, and the small remained captured my curiosity. It stated that this album was the product of a drunken stupor. Back in the day, Cash struggled with a drinking problem along with drug abuse. He was so far gone that he started to believe that he himself was of Native American bloodlines. He began writing songs about his "Falsified Heritage" and in an interview he even admitted that when researching his genealogy he found absolutely no Cherokee bloodline. But still this album has some good tracks, with some decent messages. It definitely puts the way the Native Americans were treated into perspective. At first I did not care for this album, but upon repeated listens, it really has grown on me.

Johnny Cash has always had a knack for striking that vintage country nerve. The pace is so finely crafted, and despite being under the influence the message comes off as believable. There are parts of songs in which Cash snickers while singing. To him he honestly believes the message that he was trying to convey, and it comes off as very believable. Its soothing in a way, honest and clean. But for the average listener, it might take a while to get into. A lot of the tracks or more so spoken than sung. Its more a collection of ballads with deep messages that are not really that deep if that makes sense. The album kicks off with the song "As Long As The Green Grass Grows" which is a slowly paced song, but its a song rooted in bitterness, its about losing the land the Indians held and how in todays society everything is stacked against Native Americans. There is a sense of hatred and rage, but its upbeat and churns an interesting melody. The line "Across the Allegheny River they're throwing up a dam, It will flood the Indian country a proud day for Uncle Sam" still gives me chills. Its well thought out, but its a product of its time. So around 50 plus years later, the message is somewhat lost in the future. The best way I can describe this album is that it is at its finest, consistently inconsistent. There is moments of satire present in this album however. The track "Custer" is about the infamous Custers Last Stand and how it failed miserably. Its a song in which Cash has a proud sense of accomplishment. Basically stating that, "Yeah, this is what my people are capable of". It is catchy, and paints a great picture in your head. The track "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" is also an interesting one because it laments about the man Ira Hayes who helped hoist the flag upward in the battle of Iwo Jima, you know the famous picture of the American soldiers holding up the flag under fire" Ira Hayes was apart of that. Its a very interesting song that is also catchy. It depicts a man who has been apart of American culture by risking his life to fight for this country that was stolen from his people only to be repaid by being thrown into prison and becoming an alcoholic. Its almost ironic in a way in which the way he sings about it, because at the time Cash was struggling with alcohol abuse.

The best track on the album in my opinion is "White Girl" which just has an amazing beat and is actually sung in harmony. It laments about being a Native American in the 60's and succumbing to prejudice. This man is in love with a white woman, he has fun with her, loves her more than anything else. But because he is a Native American she will not marry him and denies his request for marriage. It destroys him and pushes him to be an alcoholic. The whole album is roughly a concept album. Its strange when you know the message and meaning behind it in its entirety. When you think about it, this album could have been what ruined his career. It was among falsified claims, and it was about Native Americans which was a hot topic back then. But Johnny Cash pulled through. Overall, this is a very interesting album because it is a product of its time. There really isn't a song on this album that I do not like. It is a must listen to for any Johnny Cash fan. It is weird but its enjoyable.

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user ratings (28)

Comments:Add a Comment 
December 14th 2015


Love that summary, great review too. Pos.

December 14th 2015


Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks for the feedback, brother.

Yeah Johnny Cash is the man.

December 15th 2015


Album Rating: 4.0

anything Cash is the shit, especially his mid 60's output

December 19th 2015


Album Rating: 4.0

He is literally the man.

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