Where To Start With… Johnny Cash
Next Monday (March 31st) will see the release of Out Among the Stars, an album of never before heard recordings from Johnny Cash, a man who was equal parts country troubadour and rock n'roll outlaw. The album's recordings are taken from lost 1980s sessions with famed producer Billy Sherrill and subsequently shelved by Cash's record company, Columbia and only rediscovered by Cash's son John Carter Cash in 2012.
To celebrate, we've put together our own little guide to the man in black's finest five moments…
'Cry! Cry! Cry!'
Originally released back in 1955, this is the pick of Cash's early work. Soundtracked by a gentle plucking guitar and rolling bass, on the surface this is lovelorn ditty, but it's laced with the menace and spite that would become Cash's calling cards.
'The Man Comes Around'
One of the last original songs Cash wrote before his death in 2003, this 2002 cut captures him at his haunting, magnificent best. From the second his gravel throated croon floats out of the speakers, you're captivated. It captures everything Cash brought to tracks, it's wistful without being nostalgic, it's humble in its sound, but full of disdain for authority, and it's got a very catchy chorus.
Johnny Cash was capable of many things, beautiful heartbreaking poetry, tender love songs, and pure, unfiltered bile and venom, which is fully on show here. Taken from Cash's 1969 live album At San Quentin, which was made, suitably, at a concert for the inmates at the prison. He wrote it to show solidarity with the prisoners and it's something to behold.
'Man In Black'
Released back in 1971, this track gave Cash the descriptor that would follow him around for the rest of his career. A rollicking guitar line is punctured by Cash's typical spiteful delivery, country rock with a sizeable sneer. It also contains the immortal lyrical couplet "I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down. Living in the hopeless, hungry side of town, I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime. But still is there because he's a victim of the times."
Alright it's not his song (it's Nine Inch Nails' of course), but there's little argument that this is the definitive version of 'Hurt'. Released as part of American IV: The Man Comes Around, his collaboration with producer Rick Rubin that saw him also cover the likes of Paul Simon, Sting and Depeche Mode, this bruised, weary, lament is given a whole meaning by Cash, who proves, once again, that no-one can do regret-laden, world-wearing ballads like he can.
Johnny Cash's Out Among the Stars will be released into hmv stores on Monday (March 31st). You can check out his back catalogue in our download store now.