SOUND SEEKERS: Fateema Sayani on the Johnny Cash birthday bash

Greg Harris aka Lefty McRighty

The enigmatic Johnny Cash — that country prince of American gospel blues — still looms large in the minds of many in Ottawa’s roots scene some eight years after his death and decades after the release of his most prominent works. For its part, the ever-evolving Ottawa scene has its own head figure in Greg Harris (aka Lefty McRighty),  a federal employee by day who spends a majority of his free time booking the annual O-Town Hoedown country fest in the fall, hosting a community radio show, and staging songwriter showcases at pubs and taverns in the city.

On Saturday, Harris and a cast of nearly a dozen other singers will turn their sights to the Cash catalogue, unfurling three of their favourite Cash tunes and unpacking the reasons behind the love. The occasion? Celebrating what would have been Cash’s 79th birthday.

Lucky Ron, who wears a Cash influence on his sleeve, will take a turn at the mic as will Ray Harris, Uncle Sean, Ashley Newall, Tom Pechloff, Rick Hayes, Lisa Poushinsky, Steve Stacey, Huntley Slim, and Steve Donnelly. Harris and his backing band The Shameless Bastards will play Get Rhythm, Tennessee Flat Top Box, and That’s Enough, an upbeat gospel tune about needing nothing other than the love of Jesus.

“I’m not a God-fearing man,” Harris says, “but if I were to ever be converted, it’d be because of this song.” Cash’s baritone low-boom and resonating lyrics had that effect on people.

Saturday, Feb. 26. 9 p.m. Elmdale Tavern, 1084 Wellington St. W. $10.

Sound Seekers is published weekly at Read Fateema Sayani’s culture column in Ottawa Magazine. Subscribe to the print edition here.