Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#920 in the Series) is Johnny Cash, Out Among the Stars
In the last years of his life, and currently with the multiple releases of the Rick Rubin produced American Recordings series of recordings, we have been treated to new music from Johnny Cash. The songs presented on these records were mostly scaled down un-plugged style versions of old classics along with deep in the vault songs from artists Cash admired. Every song in the series was a powerful reminder of the greatness of the past, and a sobering look into eyes and on to the soul of one of the greatest artists ever to walk the line.
And now, courtesy of the only son of Johnny and June Carter, we are treated to Out Among the Stars, a new, new to us anyway, previously unreleased album that John Carter Cash discovered in a family storage vault, polished up a bit, and produced it pretty much the same way it have sounded if it had been released when it was recorded in 1984.
Recorded during a period when things were extra dark for The Man in Black, the Outlaw movement was going the way of the dodo bird and disco, he was recovering from an addiction to pain pills, and his record company, Columbia records, had dropped him, things were pretty bleak and the project was shelved fearing that the sound of one hand clapping would be the probable reception should the album be released. Produced by Billy Sherill, the Major-Domo behind most of the Tammy Wynette and George Jones hits, the project was clearly ahead of its time.
The voice is pretty much perfect on Out Among the Stars, and the lead-off title track is one of those old school story songs that Cash is famous for, and describes a gas station robbery with a story line that could have been ripped right from today’s headlines. The song, also covered much less honestly by Merle Haggard on his album of the same name in 2012, is a powerful reminder of how Johnny Cash can crawl into a song and own it to the very core.
There is a lot of familiar territory to savor on this album. “Baby Ride Easy” is one of two chemistry laden songs performed with wife June, and the spot on great version of the Hank Snow classic “I’m Movin’ On” with duet partner Waylon Jennings who had an office down the street when the record was being made, and would hop in to sit on a few sessions and all night guitar pulls. Hee Haw’s own Minnie Pearl actually makes an appearance on “If I Told You Who I Was.”
A real highlight is the somewhat dark “She Used to Love Me a Lot” where we hear a vibrant Cash, a decade past when he was last relevant, winding up and belting out a song for the ages. The album is not without its flaws, “After All” is almost unlistenable, and the production in some places sounds just like yesterday, and in others definitely like yester-year. After all, the record is over 30 years old.
With the many American Recordings projects released over the years, it is almost as if Johnny Cash never left us. With this one in the can along with a promised album of live records along with another talked about Gospel album from Rick Rubin potentially on the way, the best may indeed be yet to come.
But in the meantime, the world is a better place with a new Johnny Cash record to put on the turntable.
— Walt Falconer, Houston, Texas (See Walt’s Website, The Falcon’s Nest)
- “Out Among the Stars” (Adam Mitchell) – 3:02
- “Baby Ride Easy” (Richard Dobson) – 2:43
- “She Used to Love Me a Lot” (Kye Fleming, Dennis Morgan, and Charles Quillen) – 3:11
- “After All” (Ed Bruce and Patsy Bruce) – 2:49
- “I’m Movin’ On” (Hank Snow) – 3:09
- “If I Told You Who It Was” (Bobby Braddock, Curly Putman) – 3:05
- “Call Your Mother” (Cash) – 3:17
- “I Drove Her Out of My Mind” (Gary Gentry, Hillman Hall) – 3:01
- “Tennessee” (Rick Scott) – 3:27
- “Rock and Roll Shoes” (Paul Kennerley, Graham Lyle) – 2:41
- “Don’t You Think It’s Come Our Time” (Tommy Collins) – 2:17
- “I Came to Believe” (Cash) – 3:29
- “She Used to Love Me a Lot (JC/EC Version)” (Kye Fleming, Dennis Morgan, and Charles Quillen) – 3:23
- Johnny Cash – guitar, vocals
- Additional musicians
- June Carter Cash – vocals on “Baby Ride Easy” and “Don’t You Think It’s Come Our Time”
- Pete Drake – steel guitar
- Waylon Jennings – vocals on “I’m Movin’ On”
- Jerry Kennedy – guitar
- Hargus “Pig” Robbins – piano
- Marty Stuart – guitar, fiddle in the original and 2013 sessions
- Henry Strzelecki – bass guitar
Here’s a preview of Out Among The Stars
Here’s a playlist …..