A powerhouse trio of master musicians, The String Revolution is just how it sounds- an illustrious and inventive celebration of string music.
The musical wizards behind this project features former metal musician and enthusiast Janet Robin, award-winning nylon-string guitarist Markus Illko, and Cuban multi-credited guitarist Rober Luis. Together, these three masterful maestros combined talent and imaginative production have garnered global acclaim.
Founded by Robin, the original band also featured Daniel Schwarz and Art Zavala Jr. In 2016, the quartet released its first EP, Stringborn, which raked in enthusiastic reception, and opened the door for the band’s name to grow.
Known for their reimagined versions of classic hits, 2022 saw The String Revolution in collaboration with Steve Stevens, longtime guitarist for Billy Idol. Together, they produced a brilliant acoustic rendition of Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhoads’ stadium mega hit, “Crazy Train.” In talking to Robin about how she got connected with producer John Carter Cash for the band’s latest epic cover, “Folsom Prison Blues,” she dropped this bombshell, which points to her covering the iconic anthem.
“Of course [Cash] grew up listening to the masters of country music, but he himself was a metal fan! My guitar teacher growing up was none other then Randy Rhoads, so I too have a metal background. It turned out that when I was in an all-female rock back back in the 1980’s (Precious Metal) here in LA, he had come to see us at The Whiskey a Go-Go. I tell you- there are no coincidences in life!”
Having the luxury and privilege to record the band’s inventive “Folsom Prison Blues” cover under the late Johnny Cash’s studio roof, the magic certainly resides within the sound. Cash Cabin sits in Hendersonville, TN, just outside of Nashville, and was originally Johnny’s hunting cabin. During the American Recordings sessions, it was expanded and turned into a recording studio.
“John is amazing to work with, and the frosting was also getting to record at the Cabin,” Robin says. “I feel his family there, and I feel June there too. I had felt it before, but this time was different because we were doing one of Johnny’s songs. I think he would have liked it, at least that’s what JCC thought.”
To further enhance the magic behind the track, the recording utilized one of Johnny’s own personal guitars, a 1930’s Martin acoustic played by Illko, and Luther Perkins’ 1955 Fender Esquire from the original “Folsom Prison Blues” recording, played by Luis.
The track also features arguably the greatest guitarist on planet earth, Australian phenom Tommy Emmanuel. On how they reeled this other big fish into the mix, Robin told us, “Years ago I opened for him one time in Europe when I was doing my solo thing. He’s rarely in [Nashville] because he tours SO much, but I thought let’s give it a try. So our manager reached out to his manager, and Tommy happened to be in town the exact day we were recording, and was super gung-ho about doing it. He had never met JCC, and had never been to the Cabin, so I’m sure that was part of it. But when he arrived and heard our arrangement, he was ready to rock! We couldn’t be more honored and grateful to have had his participation on the track.”
The cover starts off unsuspecting and pensive, leaving anybody to guess what might come. They undoubtedly sought originality on such a classic track, and deliver it in spades. It’s a brilliantly paced showstopper that seamlessly blends the familiar with the foreign. Even without lyrics, the mood is palpable, oozing with precision and soul with expert picking techniques only few can provide.
With over 4 million total streams on Spotify, The String Revolution’s popularity continues to rise along with its ever-expanding library of both original and classic content. Blending elements of classical, rock, jazz, and world music, the trio’s sound reflects the backgrounds of its diverse members. Additional notable covers include Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and Elton John’s “Rocket Man.”
And to wrap it all up in one big epic bow, John Carter Cash had this take on the cover: “This is not my daddy’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’”.
Note* Paul Howard contributed to this article.