Thursday, March 27, 2014

Johnny Cash "Out Among The Stars" Album Review

     Johnny Cash.  The Man In Black.  No introduction can do the man justice.  Recently, his son John Carter Cash discovered a collection of recordings his father made that were never released due to issues with his record label at the time.  They went unheard for decades until John Carter Cash unearthed them and released them as a new album titled Out Among The Stars.  Although the album was recorded in the early 1980's, 2014 needed this release more and fate decided to intervene.  Out Among The Stars is vintage Cash and just the type of record 2014 needs.

     The opener and title track "Out Among The Stars" is simply classic Johnny Cash with great story-telling and his familiar, laid back delivery.  This is one of Cash's best vocal performances, he really gets into the spirit of the song and his voice reflects it.  "She Used To Love Me A Lot", a song popularized by David Allan Coe, is eerie and deep, once again telling the story like no one else can.  Cash is more than a musician, he is a storyteller in the truest sense of the word.  Whether its looking back on his marriage with wit and a goofy grin like "Tennessee", telling a funny yet dark story of heartbreak, murder, and suicide in "I Drove Her Out Of My Mind", or  taking us on a journey of faith in "I  Came To Believe", Johnny Cash can grasp the human condition and evoke his own personal touch into any topic.  Its great to hear new material and be reminded of the rare talent that Johnny Cash was.

      The album isn't all about Johnny, though.  True to his character, Johnny kept his family and friends involved and the results are fantastic, as predictable.  "If I Told You Who It Was" is corny, silly, and a little dated... yet, I love it.  It's a perfect reflection of the more innocent and fun approach artists would take, when everything wasn't taken so seriously as they are now.  I could tell you who pops up in it, but that ruins the fun of the song.  His duets with June Carter Cash are simply magic, as always.  Johnny and June just had charisma and chemistry that few could ever hope to match.  "Baby Ride Easy" is fun and silly in the spirit of "Jackson" or "Long Legged Guitar Pickin' Man", while "Don't You Think It's Come Our Time" is a sweet love song with a bluegrassy feel that sounds like a cross between "Keep On The Sunny Side" and "Will The Circle Be Unbroken?".  It's a timeless song that  is still as touching in 2014 as it would have been in 1984.  My favorite song on the album is "I'm Movin' On", a cover of the great Hank Snow classic with none other than the great Waylon Jennings guest starring.  We've lost both Johnny and Waylon, and hearing both of them on a new recording sounding great and having a blast is just too much.  I smile ear to ear each time I hear it, and I'm sure Johnny and Waylon were smiling ear to ear when they recorded it.  It's a rollicking hit.  Johnny didn't just have big names on the headlines, the behind the scenes guys were great too.  A young hotshot played mandolin and guitar on the album by the name of Marty Stuart.  Country Music Hall of Famer Hargus "Pig" Robbins is featured on the keys, and Jerry Douglas and Sam Bush make appearances as well.  That's as all-star of a line-up as I've ever heard.

      In the linear notes, John Carter Cash tells us that this was his father at "his prime".  He talks about the way his voice soars as showing off a man at peace and happy.  Listening to this album, I couldn't agree more.  How could you listen to "Rock and Roll Shoes" and not think that this is Johnny Cash as a man who is happy, healthy, in love, and at peace.  As someone who was too young to be around during Johnny's heyday, getting to be excited about a new release and hear new songs for the first time from Johnny Cash was a real treat.  Out Among The Stars is the perfect album for today's country.  It certainly has the '80's country feel to it, but it still had the classic Cash touch as well.  Modern singers should look at Johnny's example of keeping up with the times and staying fresh yet being true to yourself and the genre.  The Man In Black is back, and not a moment too soon.

Standout Tracks: "Out Among The Stars", "She Used To Love Me a Lot", "I'm Movin' On (with Waylon Jennings)", "Rock and Roll Shoes", "Baby Ride Easy (with June Carter Cash)"

"She Used To Love Me A Lot"

"I'm Movin' On" with Waylon Jennings

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