Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash

Out Among The Stars

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Can we set aside the Johnny Cash we have in our heads these days, the maestro of mortality who recorded the seminal American Recordings series of albums in his final years, and consider without prejudice the Johnny Cash of the 1980s, the traditional country music entertainer whose out-of-fashion genre recordings were shelved by his major label bosses? That's what John Carter Cash hopes will happen, having unearthed "lost" studio sessions from 1981 and 1984 in his father's archives. The voice is what is most striking here - deep, rich, unbroken by time - but the songs are average at best and the arrangements (all hokey pedal steel, metronome bass and even a children's choir) set a clichéd hurdle too high for most modern-day listeners to overcome. There is none of the outlaw edginess of the earlier prison albums, none of the world-weary melancholy that was mined when an outsider to the genre, Rick Rubin, repositioned Cash's legacy. Instead, we get an uninspired country jukebox collection; no lost classic, just a completist entry from Cash's least interesting era.

Alan Morrison