Yeah, it's fairly intimidating to find out you have to cover Johnny Cash. This is actually a Kris Kristofferson song, which, I dunno, makes it better? Worse? The Cash version I have is from a bootleggy-type thing of demos for the American records (with which I have a love/hate relationship, but that's a discussion for another time); I don't think it ever saw release in this form. For all I know Cash did another official version somewhere... it seems likely, although I think I've only ever heard Waylon Jennings' version, and that in passing.
In any case, the song takes the form of the "talking blues". Cash really is sticking to Kristofferson's words pretty closely, but it sounds very off-the-cuff and conversational, which is, I suppose, one of those gifts you get when you're Johnny Cash. I decided to try the form out more than the song, and see how well I could improvise the storytelling bits while vamping, and retain the idea and choruses only. I got mixed results... for one thing, my story made the song twice as long and there are quite a few flubs in there (my favorite of which is the word "boke", and my least favorite of which is that I FORGOT TO SING THE PUNCHLINE), but after seven continuous minutes one is loathe to drag the cursor back to the start of the track and start again. So here it is.
SPOILER ALERT: I will put the intended punchline in the comments, so if you care about that sort of thing, listen to the song before you look down there.
Rex Broome ~ Vocal and guitar
To quote Joe Strummer, "Fuckin' long, innit?" Too many ideas. Happens to me all the time. I knew I had a bit of a sprawl on my hands, but I was still pretty surprised at the final runtime. All told I did a fair enough job of hitting my target in terms of pulling off a new genre; there's even one joke (out of, yes, a whole bunch) that, for me at least, works. But by and large what I was getting at wasn't a "song" type of thing, and I definitely find this a slog to hear.
It'll come up again here and there, but throughout (and occasionally beyond) the early months of the project I had it in mind that the songs would serve as a sort of diary of family and personal life during the days in which it was recorded. Sometimes that works well and other times a day simply isn't enough to process a big emotional event, somehow channel it through a song that doesn't really have anything to do with said event or the resulting mental state, and make enough sense of it to translate for a listener who wasn't there. In this case I'd really had my ass kicked in a humiliating fashion in court on an issue which couldn't possibly be more important to me, and on which I couldn't possibly be more right: custody for Miranda and Ridley. Somehow I moved on, but I was pretty devastated by it, and that would continue to haunt me in really odd ways until, oh, let's just say now and the forseeable future.
The preoccupation with smoking has to do with one particularly galling suggestion in my ex-wife's then-current court papers. In response to my suggestion that maybe constantly smoking around my children wasn't, you know, like, good or anything, she magnanimously offered to try to quit smoking if I paid for the treatment she would "require" to do so. Think about that a little bit, because I really can't, other than to say it's not too surprising that this scenario is what first leapt to mind when the title "To Beat the Devil" first hit my cortex.