Walk the Line: The Music of June Carter Cash

imageGrowing up, I have many memories of listening to music in the car while on trips. While it was sometimes the radio, or Christmas music around the holidays, I specifically remember listening to the Walk the Line soundtrack with my mom after she watched the movie. We would alternate between Johnny Cash’s deep, booming voice and Joaquin Phoenix’s well-executed covers of the Cash originals. This weekend, I watched Walk the Line for the first time and while I was impressed with the story of Johnny Cash, I was particularly struck by Reese Witherspoon and her portrayal of June Carter. June was a popular female singer, having gained fame from her early performances with the Carter Family. Her portrayal in the film is more focused on her relationship with Cash, but her talent as a singer is also notable. I decided to put together a list of my favorite June Carter songs, including some performed by Witherspoon in the movie.

5. “Juke Box Blues”

This song was one of the first I heard in the movie that really sparked my interest in June Carter. The song’s instrumentation is really simple, featuring drums, slide guitar, and brief moments of piano. However, June’s swing with her voice and lively personality drew my attention in a song with repetitive melodic lines.

4. “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”

June Carter first recorded her cover of this song in 1999 at age 70 on her album Press On. The song is just as simple in instrumentation as “Juke Box Blues”. Her version of this song is unique in her subtle vibrato, use of dynamic contrast at the end of each line, and her hints of swing between notes.

3. “Ring of Fire”

This song is most famously known as one of Johnny Cash’s greatest hits, but it was interesting to learn that June Carter actually wrote the song and recorded her own version. Her version changes the rhythms and uses more stereotypically “country” instruments, like fiddle and percussion instruments.

2. “Wildwood Flower”

This song reminds me a lot of “Juke Box Blues” in its repetition of the melodic line. Her pronunciation of the lyrics in the song helps to make it unique, like “flor” instead of “flower”. While the song is sad and could get monotonous, June Carter’s voice is upbeat and positive, implying that she has emotional strength to get through depressing times.

1. “Jackson”

This song is definitely my favorite of June Carter’s, largely because it features Johnny Cash in a duet. Their chemistry is evident in this song, with hollers at each other during their individual features. In addition, the song is fun and upbeat, and the harmony between Cash’s deep sultry voice and Carter’s fun scooping soprano make the sound unique.


Filed under Country Symbols, Movies and TV, Women

4 Responses to Walk the Line: The Music of June Carter Cash

  1. Courtney Gonzalez

    I had no idea there was a movie based off of Johnny and June Cash. I am so excited to go and watch it because I love Johnny, June and Reese! She is definitely one of my favorite actresses! Thank you so much for sharing your experience and your favorite songs. I have actually heard all of them because I love her music, but I agree with you that Jackson is my favorite off of that list. There is nothing like a Johnny and June duet because you can feel their chemistry and you can see how much fun they have singing together on stage.

  2. Madison Comstock

    I watched this movie too, after reading some of the Country Music Experiences talking about how great the movie was. It’s my new favorite movie, and I was also especially drawn to Reese Witherspoon’s portrayal of June. I enjoyed all the songs she sang in the movie (I had no idea she could sing!) but I didn’t go look up the June Carter originals. I really like all the songs you put on here, and now I definitely count June, along with Johnny Cash of course, as one of my favorite country artists!

  3. Randle Cecil

    I have seen this movie also, but it’s been quite a while! But I do remember how amazing Reese was at playing the role of June. I had no idea Reese Witherspoon could sing either. She must be a pretty good singer if she could successfully portray herself as a country music star!! I loved this playlist and because of this article I’m going to research more about June and Johnny Cash.

  4. Lynden

    I’ve always thought about listening to the Walk the Line CD in comparison to the original versions of the songs. I’m so glad you actually did it! I’ve never focused on June Carter before, it’s cool to think she was behind so many of Johnny’s songs. Thank you for including the videos of June. Your descriptions of her voice were vivid and accurate but the videos helped bring them to life!

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