It’s not uncommon for a musician’s work to be released posthumously, in fact, this isn’t even the first time it’s happened to Johnny Cash.
However, while albums-worth of recently recorded music is often released in the months after an artist’s death, as was the case with Tupac Shakur, Jeff Buckley, Eva Cassidy et al, this latest album from Cash is an unreleased album from the 1980s.
This, ‘Out Among The Stars’, is the second posthumous release since 2003’s ‘Unearthed’ and was recorded over various sessions in 1981 and 1984 and seemingly set aside for a rainy day.
John Carter Cash, his son and leading light of the Johnny Cash Trust said: “This is new. This album is a cohesive body of work to me, not bits we’ve put together - it sounds whole. And it’s from a period in Johnny Cash’s life that not many people know about.”
There’s been an element of revisionism of the story of Cash since he teamed up with producer Rick Rubin to create the seven-album tour de force ‘American Recordings’.
Even at his lowest ebb Cash could pack out a 4,000 seat venue and still made albums roughly every two years.
His titanic battle with drugs in the 1960s has been well-documented, as was his eventual victory, but a freak accident with an ostrich from the exotic menagerie at The House Of Cash led to him becoming addicted to strong painkillers, which in turn interrupted recording for ‘Out Among The Stars’.
“He was in a prime, if not the prime,” says Carter Cash. “Vocally, he sounded fantastic. He was physically and spiritually focused. And that’s why this is an undiscovered treasure.
“It makes a statement, which all great Johnny Cash records do,” he continues. “Through the diversity of his music, there is always a strong statement; of his great enduring love for God, for my mom, or a look at the darkness in his spirit. There’s also humour which he’s perhaps not as known for, but it’s there.”
Much of what Carter Cash does with the Johnny Cash Trust is to preserve his father’s spirit and not fall into the trap of commercialism.
“My father did things in life in a certain moral way,” he says. “He stayed true to what he believed in, and there are things we’re offered that don’t suit that moral standing. We have to carry on as if he’s in the room.
“There are more recordings in the vaults, and they will likely be released too, but the timing has to be right. I think of it like finding a missing Van Gogh.
“What would you do? Keep it in the attic, or present it to the world so everyone else can enjoy it too?”