Johnny Cash recorded a lot of material during the course of his career, both released and unreleased. The Johnny Cash Bootleg Series has been issuing rare tracks and previously unreleased material from different periods of his career. In celebration of what would have been his 80th birthday, the fourth in the series, The Soul Of Truth: Bootleg Vol. IV will be released early next month.
It is an ambitious two-CD, 51-track album that focuses on the gospel/religious side of his career. The material includes his entire 20-song, 1982 album, A Believer Sings The Truth, plus five unreleased outtakes from the album sessions, an entire 12-song previously unreleased album recorded during 1975, the entire out-of-print album, Johnny Cash – Gospel Singer recorded during 1982, plus four previously unreleased outtakes. In addition, there are duets and collaborations with the likes of (his late wife) June Carter Cash, Rosanne Cash, Cindy Cash, Anita Carter, Helen Carter, Rodney Crowell, and Jessi Colter.
Johnny Cash was who he was. He was a traditional country artist with a distinctive voice and style. If you are a fan of this type of music, then this new album should prove interesting and enjoyable. If you are a fan of “The Man In Black,” then this new release is essential.
I have always been more of a fan of his spiritual material than his straight country work. He was a man of faith and when he went in a gospel direction, he seemed to be more real and honest. He was able to provide a depth and sincerity to his interpretations that was sometimes less defined on some of his regular releases.
The most interesting group of songs is at the beginning of the second disc. Cash recorded an album of material that was never released and not even named, which has been stored in the vaults for over three decades. “Back In The Fold,” “Look Unto The East,” “Would You Recognize Jesus,” “Don’t Give Up On Me,” and a duet with June, “Far Side Banks Of Jordan” are all worthy additions to the Cash catalog of songs.
It is also nice to have his Johnny Cash – Gospel Singer material available again. The duet with Colter on “The Old Rugged Cross” is a pleasant combination of styles. “Another Wide River To Cross,” “God Ain’t No Stained Glass Window,” and “My Children Walk In Truth” all show his integrity and commitment to songs of faith.
The Soul Of Truth: Bootleg Vol. IV is not a place to begin exploring the Johnny Cash legacy. Rather, it fills in the missing spaces as it not only resurrects some of his long lost material, but also brings his faith front and center.