As with previous editions of Sony Legacy’s impressive Johnny Cash Bootleg series, Bootleg Vol. IV: The Soul of Truth is a two-CD set containing a mixture of previously released and unreleased material. The focus this time around is squarely on Cash’s gospel side. The 51 tracks come from the 1970s and ‘80s. New liner notes by the late artist’s son, John Carter Cash, sort out the chronology of the music, putting it into context with the rest of Cash’s output.
The bulk of disc one is made up of a 1979 double album, A Believer Sings the Truth. Though these 20 songs have been previously released, this is the first time they’ve been available on CD. The album was somewhat of a family affair, with The Carter Family featuring prominently on many tracks. June Carter Cash joins her husband on a few tunes, including the solemn “He’s Alive” and the more upbeat “This Train Is Bound For Glory.” Cash’s sister-in-law Anita Carter pitches in with supportive harmony vocals on “Over the Next Hill (We’ll Be Home).”
A Believer Sings the Truth was boiled down to a single album and reissued in 1984 as I Believe…. Four outtakes from the 1979 sessions were included, and appropriately those tracks are also found here. The disc closes with the previously unreleased “Truth,” from which this collection’s title was taken. The song is actually a poem recited by Cash and set to music. The concluding line is, “The soul of truth is God.”
Disc two opens with a dozen songs recorded in 1975 for a never-released album. Though two of them surfaced, “Sanctified” and “Keep Me From Blowing Away,” the other ten make their debut here. Fans of June Carter Cash will appreciate the duet “Waiting on the Far Side Banks of Jordan.” Recorded four years earlier than the aforementioned version (and sans Anita Carter), “Over the Next Hill (We’ll Be Home)” turns up here as well. If you have a taste for Cash’s brand of country-gospel, this unreleased album will sound pretty good. The strings get a little treacly at times, but Cash’s sincere vocals make up for it.
Making their CD debut are ten tracks recorded in 1983, but not issued until 1986 as Believe in Him. “That Rugged Cross” is an effective duet with Jessi Colter. A couple of these tracks have a light rockabilly feel to them, setting them apart from the rather staid sound that dominates. These include “One of These Days I’m Gonna Sit Down and Talk to Paul” and “Belshazzar.” The four tracks that conclude disc two are outtakes from those 1983 sessions. The piano-driven take on the traditional “Never Grow Old” is a fine way to finish the set. Bootleg Vol. IV: The Soul of Truth is recommended for Cash collectors.