In the console between the front seats of our family vee-hicle is a stack of the CDs we keep on hand to entertain the kids while driving. Most rotate through after a few months, or get thrown out, either because we – the parents – get so incredibly sick of them (see: Thriller, Free to Be), or because they – the kids – never quite warm up to the stuff we’re selling (see: Bettye LaVette and, god, it pains me to say it, Exile on Main Street). There’s one CD, though, that has been with us for four, maybe five, years. It’s all banged up now, and it skips like crazy, and I’m constantly having to breathe on it and buff it with my t-shirt to get it to play at all. It says “Storm King” in red Sharpie across the top, in honor of the beautiful Storm King sculpture garden about an hour north of us, in the Hudson Valley up near West Point, where I took the kids one cold fall morning just after burning this disc. “Storm King” is not a mix, though: this disc contains one album,The Children’s Album, recorded in 1975 by Johnny Cash. Here’s one of those rare records that we can all agree on, pretty much all the way through. We’ve listened to it on road trips, we’ve played it during birthday parties, I’ve even been known to put it when it’s just me, and the dog Iris, changing lightbulbs and emptying the dishwasher on a Saturday afternoon. It’s great, solid music and storytelling – performed by a variety-show-era, leather-jacketed Johnny Cash — and, seriously, what could ever be wrong with that?
It’s also the perfect Thanksgiving playlist. Good for kids, good for parents, good for grandparents, nice and mellow and funny and happy, just the thing to have on in the car on the way there or in the kitchen while you cook and the kids mill about, just the thing to mask the sounds of bickering cousins or cursing cooks or plastic dump trucks being dragged across hardwood floors. I can listen to Johnny Cash any time, and I do, but that voice is particularly suited to fall afternoons, big, messy gatherings, glasses of bourbon, football on the tv. Once your kids are fully on board – do me a favor and play them “Tiger Whitehead” or “Call of the Wild” and tell me they aren’t in love – you can move on to this. — Andy