When news leaked late last year that Sony had unearthed a ‘shelved’ collection of Johnny Cash songs recorded in the 1980s, it was cause to celebrate because outside of live recordings and demos, the word was there wasn’t anything like this available. These fully-produced songs, recorded with Producer Billy Sherrill in 1981 and 1984, were lovingly curated by John Carter Cash and is being released on Sony’s Legacy Recordings label.
When these recordings were made, country music was changing and Columbia worked with Cash to ‘modernize’ or ‘commercialize’ him more but what happened is that Cash remained virtually unchanged except for a little more polish. In fact, “She Used To Love Me A Lot” showcases a sound Cash would visit, stripped down and bare sounding, with Rick Rubin and his American Recordings series of albums (his final five albums before death). A young Marty Stuart appears on the record as does the late Waylon Jennings on an energetic take of of Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On.” There’s the fun “If I Told You Who It Was,” a talking story song written by Bobby Braddock and Curly Putnam that is further proof that Cash was one of the first rappers. Yes, he’s talking but he’s telling a rhyming story here. June Carter Cash appears on the ballad “Don’t You Think It’s Come Our Time” and “Baby Ride Easy,” a song which has a cool swampy feel to it.
The story of why this was shelved is weird because it’s not even remotely the ‘pop’ record he thought it was or 1985’s Rainbow was. Out Among The Starsis among the best records from Cash’s down periods and it’s a damn delight to get to hear such great material from one the most iconic Country or Rock stars ever to grace the planet.