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The Man in Black Meets the Man Upstairs: New Johnny Cash “Bootleg” Album Collects Gospel Material and Rarities

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Underneath the darkness of The Man in Black, there was a great light.   Despite trials that would likely have tested the faith of a lesser man, Johnny Cash’s belief in a higher power was unshakeable.  And Cash formidably expressed those beliefs in song over the course of his long career.  Like another American icon, Elvis Presley, Cash built up a body of gospel and spiritual music with such depth that it has easily stood the test of time alongside his more famous secular works.

Johnny Cash would have turned 80 on February 26, 2012, and in celebration of his singular life, Legacy Recordings has a number of archival projects on the docket, beginning with the continuation of a much-loved series curated by producer Gregg Geller.  Following 2011’s second and third volumes of Cash’s own Bootleg Series comes the April 3 release of Bootleg Vol. IV: The Soul of Truth.  Over two CDs and 51 tracks, Cash’s spiritual music is explored via traditional hymns, original songs, and well-selected compositions from songwriters he admired.  As a number of Cash’s earliest faith-based efforts for Columbia Records have been reissued (such as 1959’s seminal Hymns by Johnny Cash, previously expanded by Legacy), the new anthology instead concentrates on oft-overlooked works from the 1970s and 1980s.  Cash’s spiritual fervor in song didn’t wane as he got older, but rather got stronger; 2004’s My Mother’s Hymn Book was a highlight of his late, Rick Rubin-produced tenure at American Recordings.

Hit the jump for more details!

At the heart of Bootleg IV’s first disc is the album A Believer Sings the Truth.  Cash recorded its 20 tracks for the Cachet Records label in 1979, with half of its titles reprised on a 1982 collection from Priority Records, Columbia’s boutique gospel offshoot.  Five more tracks round out this disc including four released on Arrival Records’ 1994 I Believe…, and perhaps most significantly, the song that gives the new compilation its title.  “Truth” is believed to have been based on a poem written by The Greatest, Muhammad Ali.  He presented the poem to Cash, who set it to music but never released the track.  The poem was, in fact, written by Sufi leader Hazrat Inayat Khan and contains the pivotal line, “The soul of truth is God.”

The second disc turns the clock back to 1975, and twelve tracks recorded for an untitled LP.  Two of these tracks have appeared on various compilations over the past five years, but the album was never released until now as intended.  This should make for a stellar companion piece to Sings Precious Memories, the 1975 Columbia album that was Cash’s fifth gospel album for the label.  Disc 2 continues with ten tracks that comprised Gospel Singer, recorded in 1983 for the Priority label.  Gospel Singer is augmented by four previously unissued outtakes from the same sessions that yielded the LP.

Heightening the excitement for this release is the presence of many other familiar names.  The Carter Family wasn’t far away, with June Carter Cash joining on “He’s Alive,” Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “This Train Is Bound For Glory,” and “Far Side Banks Of Jordan”), Helen Carter joining in on “Way Worn Traveler” and Anita Carter contributing to “Over the Next Hill (We’ll Be Home).”  And, indeed, this was a family affair.  Cash’s daughter Cindy Cash joins her father on “Lay Me Down in Dixie,” and Rosanne Cash can be heard on “When He Comes.” Rosanne’s then-husband Rodney Crowell teamed with his father-in-law for “You’ll Get Yours and I’ll Get Mine” and the Gaither Family’s “He Touched Me.”  Crowell’s song “Wildwood in the Pines” is also heard in Johnny’s rendition.

Writing in the liner notes for Bootleg Vol. IV, Cash’s son John Carter Cash notes, “The music set a foundation for J. R. Cash, and upon it he established the motivation for his existence.  With the songs of the gospel came faith, and along with faith, a fortitude and persistence that would not be denied.  If you were convinced of my Dad’s honesty, it is because he was confident of his purpose, and that purpose was defined by gospel music.  Though he would sing many kinds of music in his life, he was never truer than when he sang songs of faith.”

You’ll have the chance to share in Johnny Cash’s deep faith, and the light it brought forth, when Bootleg IV: The Soul of Truth arrives on April 3. A pre-order link will be added once one is available, but the track listing is below!

Johnny Cash, Bootleg Vol. IV: The Soul of Truth (Columbia/Legacy 88697 98538-2, 2012)

Disc 1: A Believer Sings the Truth and more

  1. Wings in the Morning
  2. Gospel Boogie (A Wonderful Time Up There)
  3. Over the Next Hill (We’ll Be Home) (with Anita Carter)
  4. He’s Alive (with June Carter Cash)
  5. I’ve Got Jesus in My Soul
  6. When He Comes (with Roseanne Cash)
  7. I Was There When It Happened (with Marshall Grant)
  8. I’m a New Born Man
  9. Strange Things Happening Every Day
  10. Children Go Where I Send Thee
  11. I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal
  12. Lay Me Down in Dixie (with Cindy Cash)
  13. Don’t Take Everybody to Be Your Friend
  14. You’ll Get Yours and I’ll Get Mine (with Rodney Crowell)
  15. Oh Come, Angel Band
  16. This Train is Bound for Glory (with June Carter Cash)
  17. I’m Gonna Try to Be That Way (with Jan Howard)
  18. What on Earth Will You Do (For Heaven’s Sake)
  19. That’s Enough
  20. The Greatest Cowboy of Them All (with Jack Routh)
  21. Didn’t It Rain
  22. He Touched Me (with Rodney Crowell)
  23. Way Worn Traveler (with Helen Carter)
  24. I’ll Have a New Life (with June Carter Cash)
  25. Truth

Disc 2: The lost gospel album and Johnny Cash – Gospel Singer

  1. Back in the Fold
  2. Look Unto the East
  3. I Was There When It Happened
  4. Sacntified
  5. Would You Recognize Jesus
  6. That’s Just Like Jesus
  7. What on Earth Will You Do (For Heaven’s Sake)
  8. Keep Me from Blowing Away
  9. Don’t Give Up on Me
  10. Over the Next Hill (We’ll Be Home)
  11. Far Side Banks of Jordan (with June Carter Cash)
  12. Our Little Old Home Town
  13. Belshazzar
  14. My CHildren Walk in Truth
  15. The Old Rugged Cross (with Jessi Colter)
  16. One of These Days I’m Gonna Sit Down and Talk to Paul
  17. God Ain’t No Stained Glass Window
  18. Half a Mile a Day
  19. Another Wide River to Cross
  20. You’re Drifting Away
  21. Believe in Him
  22. Over There
  23. Gospel Road
  24. What is Man
  25. Wildwood in the Pines
  26. Never Grow Old

Disc 1, Tracks 1-20 released as A Believer Sings the Truth – Cachet CL3-9001, 1979)
Disc 1, Tracks 21-24 released on I Believe… – Arrival 3870, 1984
Disc 1, Track 25 is a previously unreleased outtake recorded in 1979
Disc 2, Tracks 1-12 recorded for unreleased gospel album in 1975.  Disc 2, Track 4 released on Ultimate Gospel (Columbia/Legacy 88697 05838-2, 2007) and Disc 2, Track 8 released on The Great Seventies Recordings (Reader’s Digest A-764438, 2010). All other tracks previously unreleased.
Disc 2, Tracks 13-22 released as Johnny Cash – Gospel Singer – Priority Records 38503, 1983
Disc 2, Tracks 23-26 are previously unreleased outtakes recorded in 1984

Written by Joe Marchese

February 9, 2012 at 08:54

3 Responses

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  1. It’s a little ironic that Columbia Records (SONY) celebrates Cash today, when they dumped his contract years ago and released him.

    But that poor treatment of a great artist led to Cash’s revival and enduring legacy, by setting the stage for the last phase of his career with American Recordings.


    February 9, 2012 at 11:54

  2. Interesting that A Believer Sings the Truth is on this, as it was rejected by Columbia in 1979 because they believed a double album of gospel songs would not sell. Ah, everything comes full circle.


    February 9, 2012 at 16:14

  3. Kevin: Columbia isn’t celebrating Cash. They’re executing an initiative with existing property that is sure to make them money.

    A label dropping an artist is a indicator that future product is not expected to meet revenue budgeting. It is not an indicator that proven past product or existing held product that can be issued without additional production cost is of no value.


    February 9, 2012 at 16:16

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