Seeing the annual Johnny Cash Show is like reading a family Christmas card: Johnny is fine, his wife June Carter Cash is fine, so are 9-year-old John Carter Cash, the two sisters-in-law Carter, the brother-in-law and third cousin.
They're a friendly clan, and if the music is predictable, it's also dependable. No matter that Cash waited almost a quarter of a century to record "Ghost Riders in the Sky" -- he's produced the definitive cowboy record.
In his opening night at the Kennedy Center last night, Cash seemed relaxed, youthfully energetic and unusually fit as he ranged from his mid-'50s hits like "hey, Porter!" to his newest mock-rockabilly composition "I Can Rock 'n' Roll With You."
Although the death a few months ago of country music matriarch Maybelle Carter has robbed the Cash show of one of its dominant characters, June Carter Cash has bloomed in recent years, playing banjo, autoharp and falsetto harmonica.
The backup sounds the same as it has for nearly 25 years -- spare and heavy in the bass -- except for the updating effect of two honkers called, in the vernacular, the Tennessee Trumpets.
Cash appears through tomorrow night at the Kennedy Center.