Johnny Cash‘s new album, Out Among The Stars, consists of 13 tracks recorded in the 1980s when his voice was full, strong and dynamic, without the pathos evident in his late-career series of American Recordings that resurrected both his career and his reputation. As indispensable as those later albums are, this new recording provides even greater pleasure, though not with the same depth of creative exploration that producer Rick Rubin brought to Cash’s final recordings.
There are more than a few sure-fire singles in this new collection: “She Used To Love Me A Lot”, a great failed romance and regret number; “Out Among The Stars”, with a lyric that could have come out of Bruce Springsteen, and a truly fine duo tune, “Don’t You Think It’s Come Our Time” that features the deeper, darker voice of Johnny’s wife June Carter still in her prime but noticeably more mature than, say, the beauty of ‘Springtime in Alaska’ and ‘Jackson’. Makes one think that Johnny and June should have done many, many albums together, as there was no finer female country voice that complemented his so well.
The knockout numbers on this album, though, are Cash’s stellar version of the Hank Snow classic “I’m Movin’ On” – this track is priceless for displaying the famed Cash attitude and for incorporating something far stronger than his familiar chucka-chucka beat. The guitar is straight out the Bakersfield sound lab and veers dangerously and deliciously close to rock and roll. The second? – the incomparable storytelling humour of “If I Told You Who It Was”, so strongly reminiscent in beat of “One Piece At A Time” – and this tune displays something we’ve never heard from Cash before – a risque take on an adulterous encounter with a country singer.
Though there’s not a weak track on the record, “After All”‘ is a little too predictable, a little too mainstream for these ears. Fortunately the ensuing duo, again with the marvelous June Carter, “Baby Ride Easy” is a delight that restores the fun factor and the terrific musicality that pervades the album. As for the album closer “Tennessee”, well, this one could have and would have been a chart-topper at any time during Cash’s career.
All in all, one wonders what took Cash’s record company so longer to issue this collection of aural delights – it’s near perfection regardless of one’s musical inclinations.
Brian Miller is the Publisher and Editor of Vivascene. A former record store owner, business executive and business writer, he is devoted to great music, classical guitar, vinyl records and high end audio. Email: email@example.com