In­tense mu­sic

Johnny cash’s en­dur­ing legacy gets a shot in the arm.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MUSIC - By CHRIS TAL­BOTT

ThErE’S new never-be­fore-heard mu­sic com­ing from Johnny Cash. Cash’s es­tate is re­leas­ing Out Among The Stars, an al­bum he recorded with Billy Sher­rill in the early 1980s that was never re­leased by Columbia records, then dis­ap­peared when the com­pany dropped Cash in 1986. Turns out Cash and his wife, June Carter Cash, stashed the tapes – along with just about ev­ery­thing else that came into their pos­ses­sion.

“They never threw any­thing away,” said their son, John Carter Cash. “They kept ev­ery­thing in their lives. They had an ar­chive that had ev­ery­thing in it from the orig­i­nal au­dio tapes from The Johnny Cash Show to ran­dom things like a camel sad­dle, a gift from the prince of Saudi Ara­bia.”

They stored away so much, in fact, the younger Cash and archivists at legacy record­ings didn’t find the ma­te­rial un­til last year, long af­ter the fam­ily be­gan is­su­ing archival mu­sic by Cash.

Out Among The Stars will be out March 25, and con­tin­ues an in­tense pe­riod of in­ter­est in the singer, who helped shape mod­ern coun­try and rock ‘n’ roll mu­sic and be­came an Amer­i­can pop cul­tural fig­ure be­fore his death 10 years ago at 71.

Mul­ti­ple mu­sic, book and restora­tion projects have been started in the past 18 months to mark what would have been the singer’s 80th birth­day and the 10th an­niver­sary of his death. The mu­sic be­ing re­leased was recorded dur­ing a dif­fi­cult pe­riod for Cash per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally.

Columbia paired him with Sher­rill, a pro­ducer and Coun­try Mu­sic hall of Fame mem­ber who was then the pres­i­dent of CBS records Nashville. One of the main ar­chi­tects of coun­try mu­sic’s so-called coun­try­poli­tan sound, Sher­rill helped push the genre to­ward pop sounds and con­ven­tions – and away from Cash’s more in­de­pen­dent-minded ways.

The pair­ing came at a time when Cash was at a low ebb in his pop­u­lar­ity. The mu­sic on Out Among The Stars is taken from 1981 and ‘84 ses­sions, at a time when coun­try mu­sic was go­ing through great change.

“Dad was al­ways uniquely him­self,” Cash said. “And later on the world would come back around. he never mod­i­fied him­self. But Nashville at the time was in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent place. it was the ‘ Ur­ban Cowboy’ phase. it was pop coun­try, and dad was not that. i think him work­ing with Billy was sort of an ef­fort by the record com­pany to put him more in the cir­cle of Mu­sic row and see what could hap­pen at the heart of that ma­chine.”

it was clear record com­pany ex­ec­u­tives didn’t think much of the out­come. They put out a few more Cash al­bums af­ter the record­ings were made, but never used the mu­sic from those ses­sions be­fore drop­ping him. Sher­rill backed Cash with a band that con­sist- ed of fel­low Coun­try hall of Fame mem­ber har­gus “Pig” rob­bins and a young friend of Cash’s named Marty Stu­art.

The younger Cash and his co-pro­ducer, ar­chiv­ist Steve Berkowitz, de­cided they’d bring Stu­art back in to re-record his parts with 30 years more ex­pe­ri­ence as a picker. Oth­ers, in­clud­ing Buddy Miller and Jerry Dou­glas, helped for­tify the orig­i­nal tapes as well. The 12 tracks in­clude a duet with Way­lon Jen­nings and two with June Carter Cash.

“We were so ex­cited when we dis­cov­ered this,” Cash said. “We were like, my good­ness this is a beau­ti­ful record that no­body has ever heard. Johnny Cash is in the very prime of his voice for his life­time. he’s pitch per­fect. it’s sel­dom where there’s more than one vo­cal take. They’re a live take and they’re per­fect.”

John Carter Cash doesn’t think Columbia ex­ec­u­tives re­alised what they had in hand. Even though his fa­ther had been a ma­jor star, tastes he soon met pro­ducer rick ru­bin, though, and re­leased a se­ries of cel­e­brated stripped-down records fea­tur­ing not much more than his voice and gui­tar, writ­ing a coda to his ca­reer that gave his life some­thing of a mythic qual­ity. “Johnny Cash was re­deemed, and that was a won­der­ful les­son,” hil­burn said. “his story is so great and it’s so dramatic and it’s so much more dramatic than i ever en­vi­sioned.”

– AP

Johnny Cash’s al­bum, com­prised of 12 stu­dio record­ings re­cently dis­cov­ered, will be re­leased in March 2014.

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