Say what you want about NBC’s reality show singing competition The Voice, or even one of this season’s top contestants Craig Wayne Boyd, but there’s no disputing now that his high-flying run towards the season finale of the show has resulted in an unexpected boost for The Man in Black. The former padawan of slain Outlaw music artist Wayne Mills—just like his current coach on the show Blake Shelton—Craig Wayne Boyd has called upon classic country material for the competition on numerous occasions, including on November 24th when he sang Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line” during the Top 10 live show. The song was done in tribute to Wayne Mills, who was killed just over a year ago by a bar owner who is awaiting trial on 2nd degree murder charges.
Craig Wayne Boyd’s performance was already charged enough with the emotion of the moment and the memory of Wayne hanging in the air, but now Boyd’s rendition of “I Walk The Line” has catapulted him, and Johnny Cash by proxy, to the top of the country music charts, aided by The Voice voting system which gives contestants credit if they register on the iTunes chart.
Right now “I Walk The Line” performed by Craig Wayne Boyd, and first written and recorded by Johnny Cash at Sun Studios in 1956, sits at the #1 spot on Billboard’s Country Digital Songs chart, beating out the big current singles right now from Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, and Sam Hunt. The Country Digital Songs chart compiles the week’s most-downloaded songs as determined by Nielsen SoundScan.
Maybe even more significant and historic, Craig Wayne Boyd’s “I Walk The Line” also came in at #15 on Billboard’s all-encompassing Hot Country Songs chart. The last time Johnny Cash himself had a song on the chart at all was in 2003 when his cover of Trent Reznor’s “Hurt” made it to #56. The last time Johnny Cash had a song in the Top 15 of the Hot Country Songs chart was 1981 with “The Barron.” Cash was also part of The Highwaymen’s #1 hit “Highwayman” in 1985.
Undoubtedly Craig Wayne Boyd’s version of “I Walk The Line” will experience a precipitous free fall in the charts in the coming weeks, but not after it’s found its way onto scores of digital devices and been heard by millions of listeners. The efficacy of these singing shows at launching artists or making any material change in the music world is easy to call into question. But with Craig Wayne Boyd and “I Walk The Line,” there’s no questioning he was able to do a solid for the Man in Black not seen in a very long time.