Johnny Cash, ‘Out Among the Stars’ (Columbia/Legacy)
This release is a real find. It’s not a collection of unfinished demos, alternate tracks, or outtakes. It’s a bonafide, brand new Johnny Cash album compiled from tracks Cash recorded in 1981 and 1984 but were left to languish in the vaults. Until now.
Cash’s career had stalled in the ’80s, a time when he couldn’t even land an album on the country charts. But you wouldn’t know that from listening to these songs. Working with “countrypolitan” producer Billy Sherrill (Tammy Wynette, George Jones), Cash has great fun duetting with wife June Carter Cash on the lively “Baby Ride Easy” and the mellow, romantic “Don’t You Think It’s Come Our Time.” “I’m Movin’ On,” where he trades lines with Waylon Jennings, foreshadows his later work with Jennings in country supergroup the Highwaymen. It’s the light-hearted material that goes down best; the jokey “If I Told You Who It Was,” describes a romantic encounter with teasing lines like “Her tire, unlike her body, was very flat.”
The only disappointment for Cash fans is that the album is a mere 12 tracks (there’s also a superfluous bonus track with remix of “She Used to Love Me a Lot” by Elvis Costello). But it’s still nice to get to spend a little more time with the Man in Black.