- June 14, 2011

I ain't ashamed to admit I am highly entertained by the new release of Johnny Cash "leftovers."

JOHNNY CASH – Bootleg Vol. 2: From Memphis to Hollywood (2011, Sony Legacy)

It speaks to Johnny Cash’s stature as a songwriter that even a 2-disc set of obscurities and heretofore unreleased recordings from the 1950’s and 60’s can hold my ear longer than most of what passes for music these days.

True, if any of these recordings were as good as the Cash classics we know and love, we’d have heard them already, and maybe I am a little more charmed by Cash’s baritone than some folk, but I think it’s a hoot-and-a-half to hear an old radio show where Cash is obliged to hawk home improvements between songs.  I also enjoy hearing different takes on some of those ol’ Cash classics like “I Walk the Line,” “Country Boy,” and “Big River,” done here the old-fashioned way – one man, one guitar, one tape recorder.

It’s also a treat to hear some more Gospel flavor in Cash’s repertoire than was his habit later in life.  Reminds me of why my grandparents (who rarely listened to secular music) probably got into his music in the first place.

These recordings are what they are: dusty relics from a bygone era, a time when all it took to move (or at least interest) people was a guitar, 3 chords, and the truth.  A time when there was no real line in the sand between what was “country,” and what was “rock,” and what was “gospel,” and what was “rhythm-and-blues.”  It was all just “popular music.”

Maybe that day will circle around again and maybe it won’t (Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum sure seem to be giving it the ol’ college try).  I, for one, am delighted the holders of these dusty old Johnny Cash recordings saw fit to release them in the meantime.

Jesse Atticus Stillwater

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Originally posted on March 1, 2011