Enjoying the ‘lost tracks’ from Johnny Cash

Michael Klein, Editor in Chief

The landscape of today’s country music is so far from the many decades “The Man in Black” ruled. Johnny Cash greatly contrasts the flashy and hip-hop influenced genre that is now popular country (emphasis on popular) music. Like a black cup of coffee, Cash can be too strong and even bitterly unpalatable to many folks’ gustation. For appreciators, however, the dark yet robust delivery is boldly smooth and even refreshing. This album is far less dreary than his last few released and the two duets with June Carter Cash, his wife of 35 years who brings something special, manages to add a couple figurative cubes of sugar. Her sweet voice tones down the harshness of her husbands.

Fans should not expect another “Ring of Fire,” however. The legendary storyteller’s delivery and personality still eclipse the fact that “Stars” is lacking anything that resembles a modern hit. Yet, there is plenty to appreciate. The appropriately titled “Out Among the Stars” simplistically sums up Cash’s style, which usually painted a dark loneliness. “Midnight at a liquor store in Texas” are the first words said as he sets the scene of a robbery where a young man couldn’t find a job but found himself a gun. Problems with addiction and the highs and lows of love are of course present as well. “Stars” is much more upbeat than his previous posthumous releases, however. June is warm and Cash manages to be playful and jokey, even when his lyrics aren’t as cheerful.

Classic country melodies set the stage for one of the most iconic voices.

Consisting of mostly cover tracks, the album has 12 songs total and plays just over a half an hour. Despite the lack of original songs, Cash always manages to infuse his timeless style and own the renditions.

Highwaymen bandmate, the late Waylon Jennings, appears on the lively track “I’m movin’ on.”

“If I told you who it was” hears the playful side of Cash doing a Rodney Carrington type tune. While pursuing a famous love interest, Cash comically sings about their encounters.

Eerie, echoing, storyteller sorrow, scars, mournful, depth, playful, drab, aphotic, tenebrific panorama, dreary sullen skies, heavy, midnight, robust, timeless quality

“Out Among the Stars” is a compilation of previously unheard tracks from the early ‘80s, and Cash’s third posthumous release, bringing his career total to a whopping 99. “Stars” debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart, and third overall on the Billboard Top 200. While Johnny Cash may not be everyone’s cup of joe, there is no debating he and his music were one of a kind. As for deceased artists’ albums, this is one of the best. Hopefully his son John Carter Cash, who helped these lost tracks get released, can unearth more gems and push his extensive catalogue over the century mark.