“Ring of Fire”


The first new Dylan music in a couple of years appeared in a venue so obscure that I don’t think I even knew it existed until yesterday. Dylan’s cover of the Johnny Cash hit “Ring of Fire” appeared on the soundtrack of the 1996 “romantic comedy” Feeling Minnesota. I put “romantic comedy” in scare quotes there because I’ve never seen the film, and since the wikipedia plot description begins with Cameron Diaz’s character being sold into sex slavery, well, colour me skeptical.

I’m not sure how or why the song is used in the film because I’m not going to watch a Keanu Reeves/Cameron Diaz film from twenty years ago to find out. Here is the trailer:

So, yeah, not watching that. I like how the voice over tells us it is a film “by Steven Baigelman” as if that should mean something. This was both the first film that he wrote and directed, so he wasn’t exactly a household name – and he hasn’t gone on to much acclaim either.

The trailer uses the Johnny Cash version of “Ring of Fire” rather than the Dylan one, so maybe they didn’t think Dylan was a selling point. The soundtrack doesn’t include the Cash version, so it is likely that it isn’t even in the film itself.

Dylan’s version here, you can hear it in this YouTube clip, is perfectly fine. “Ring of Fire” is so absolutely associated with Cash that it can seem almost pointless to bother covering it; everything is liable to feel thin in comparison. There’s nothing wrong with this version at all, but neither is particularly new or noteworthy. I guess I like the drumming here, but not the back-up singers.

Dylan had recorded “Ring of Fire” once before, in 1969 in sessions with Cash that led to the inclusion of “Girl From the North Country” on Nashville Skyline. That version, with Dylan’s crooner voice, trades phrases with Cash and is more interesting for the duet, although the band is so totally doing the Cash guitar work that is almost distracting.

This is it for new Dylan songs for this week, so you’d better enjoy this while you have a chance!