Eddie Money's drummer, Glenn Symmonds, was diagnosed with bladder cancer last year. I hope I'm not insulting you by assuming you didn't know that. The good news is he beat it, partly by going vegan and drinking a lot of juice, and partly by undergoing painful, expensive surgery. In an effort to defray his bills, Symmonds has released the questionably punctuated Friends of Glenn's, which features various artists covering his original songs and includes a track by Missoula's The Cold Hard Cash Show.
The Cold Hard Cash Show is a tribute band for Johnny Cash. They play Johnny Cash covers in a Johnny Cash style, but in this case they are covering Symmonds' "Troubadour," also in the style of Johnny Cash. It is possible that a cover of a song by Eddie Money's drummer performed by a Johnny Cash tribute band is the most postmodern thing that has ever happened in the history of sound as art, but such questions are unanswerable. As Batman or McDonald's will tell you, the important thing is not the origin story but how it comes out in the end.
"Troubadour" is a Johnny Cash song that might have been. As usual, Merle Travis Peterson hits the vocals well, enunciating as if it were an unforgivable affectation to drop an "r." The guitar tone is as recognizable as Luther Perkins' boots, but the song itself is more deeply Cash than its sonic veneer. It's about a singer whose life and art are congruent, writing songs about lonely determination and playing them for decades in half-full roadhouses.
It is appropriate for a drummer whom almost all of us have heard and almost none of us could name. Symmonds and a Johnny Cash tribute band have something in common: they love their work, and neither is in it for the money. They are the troubadours about whom they sing, grinding it out on the road and probably not retiring to a mansion at the end. It sounds like a raw deal, until you hear that voice and that jittery, echoing guitar.
The Cold Hard Cash Show plays the Top Hat Sat., March 22, at 10 PM. $5.