Our Man Johnny

Faith in the Lord. True love. Murderous violence. The Bible draws on these three themes. So does good country music. Think David, Bathsheba, and Uriah on compact disc.

Johnny Cash can sing on all three subjects with equal certitude. Here's a man with a voice that can soar to the heavens because it has spent time in wasted places. On his three-CD boxed set, Love, God, Murder, Cash mines the dominant themes that have produced more than 40 years of great music. All of these songs were handpicked by Cash, the result being anything but another "best of" collection. Liner note commentaries are provided by June Carter Cash (Love), Bono (God), and Quentin Tarantino (Murder), and by Cash himself on each album. Cash produced these albums as well, along with Steve Berkowitz and Al Quaglieri, the result being wonderfully stripped-down versions of previously over-produced works and a new coat of crystal on rusty tracks from the '50s and '60s.

From his first recordings at Sun Studios in Memphis, Johnny Cash has sung the song of a lover. Find the stage of your relationship and he's got a tune for it: pining for love lost ("I Still Miss Someone"), an explosive attraction that can't be denied ("Ring of Fire"), the struggle to remain faithful ("I Walk the Line"). But it is not these classics, the Johnny Cash standards that we expect, that make Love memorable. From the icicle heartbreak of the previously unreleased "I Tremble For You" to fantastic old B-sides like "All Over Again" and "A Little at a Time," this album makes accessible to everyone songs that only the most hardcore Cash fans would know. And these songs come with verifiable proof. "Never has there been a deeper love than my love for [June]," Cash says of their 32-year marriage.

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 2001
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