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Published: 2014/03/25
by Brian Robbins

Johnny Cash
Out Among The Stars

Legacy Recordings

Whereas most artists’ posthumous albums are often made up of outtakes, alternate mixes and/or demos, the latest release from the Johnny Cash catalog truly is a “lost album.”

John Carter Cash – son of The Man In Black and June Carter Cash – discovered these dozen previously-unreleased tracks during the process of cataloguing his parents’ archives. Put to tape during sessions in Nashville during 1981 and ’84, the songs are a mix of covers and Cash originals with a couple of duets with June and a cameo by Cash’s old buddy Waylon Jennings.

Latecomers to Cash’s music need to keep in mind: producer Rick Rubin – who managed to bring Cash into the limelight one more time with his American Recordings series in the legendary singer’s waning years – wouldn’t make his appearance for another decade or so. The sessions for Out Among The Stars were overseen by Billy Sherrill, the man behind Nashville’s “countrypolitan” sound of that period. The result is a subtle sweetening-up of Cash’s sound that still allows his humor and soul to show through.

There’s love to be found here in the duets with wife June (“Don’t You Think It’s Come Our Time” and “Baby Ride Easy”); there’s obsession, both faded (“She Used To Love Me A Lot”) and twisted (“I Drove Her Out Of My Mind”); there’s reflection (“After All” and “Call Your Mother”); and there’s confession of the soul and declaration of faith (“I Came To Believe”). “Tennessee” paints a picture of paradise, while the title track paints a picture of desperation. The goofy punchline of “If I Told You Who It Was” holds the seriousness of the tune’s background vocals at bay; and “Rock And Roll Shoes” catches a whiff of Cash’s old Sun recordings.

The album’s highlight may very well be the aforementioned duet with Jennings – a rollicking romp through Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On”. The pair blend swapped-off verses with shoulder-to-shoulder ones – you can easily hear the grins.

And that may be the best approach to the music on Out Among The Stars : there’s nothing earth-shattering here that would’ve changed the course of Cash’s history. But if you want to spend some time with the man and have a few grins, this is the makings of a fine, fine afternoon, right here.

*****

Brian Robbins has a pair of rock and roll shoes (size 14) over at www.brian-robbins.com

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