There is always something mildly terrifying about your heroes work being released after they have passed. So I was exited and little bit scared when I heard about the Out Among The Stars by Johnny Cash being released. There is more to this album though. It was originally recorded in 1980 and 1984 but Cash’s record label Columbia decided not to release it at the time. They were actually contemplating dropping Johnny Cash from the label due to low album sales. I’d hate to be the record executive with “Dropping Johnny Cash” on their resume. Obviously now the album has also historical value, but as a fan I wanted a great Johnny Cash album.
So filled with fear and excitement I hit the play. Thumping in from my office speakers comes the all so familiar Johnny Cash backing band with its walking bass and guitar. Johnny’s voice flavored with tasty slap back echo tells me “It’s a midnight at a liquor store in Texas” and suddenly I know I had nothing to worry about in the first place. His instantly recognizable voice, that has influenced modern-day rock and country music more widely than probably any one else reminds us what a great story-teller he was. Every song on the album is built on a story, something so many singer-songwriters these days could learn from. Lately I have been loosing hope with every song about songwriters inability to find “true love” passing through my speakers. Now don’t get me wrong, there has been some great albums coming out lately as well, but it is the general level of songwriting in the modern-day pop charts that has me tuning in more and more to the country stations. The 12 songs on this album drag you in with the stories, you keep listening as you want to hear what happens in the next verse. It is not as dark as lot of Johnny’s later albums, which I am sure some of you will not be happy with. But I for one like the album a lot. Also the guest appearances from the love of his life June Cash Carter and old friend and fellow country music legend Waylon Jennings, with his Telecaster are a bonus to any country music fan. My only question mark is the bonus track, which is the remix of “She used to love me a lot” done by Elvis Costello. That was the only moment in the album where I felt like I was being fed with fill in track, you know those all you can eat restaurants and how they bring you an extra portion of chips between every meat course, just to fill you up… I would have been more than happy with just the 12 tracks.
If you are like me a fan and have your doubts about Johnny Cash releasing albums beyond the grave, let me assure you “Out Among The Stars” is a damn fine Johnny Cash album.
The author J.P. Kallio is a singer songwriter
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