For a whole legion of new fans, Johnny Cash is the bad ass guy in black who covered Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode; is on a poster in dorm room walls across the country giving a defiant middle finger to the camera; stood in front of prisoners in Folsom and San Quentin, doped out of his mind, and openly mocked the prison guards during live concerts.
And yes, he is/was all those things, but also a devote Christian who recorded almost a dozen gospel album dating back to 1959. Columbia and Legacy Records have collected and repackaged three of those rare albums: A Believer Sings The Truth; an untitled, unreleased 1975 set; and Johnny Cash Gospel Singer. These recordings have been pretty hard to find over the years and with this new release the labels have also included 15 unreleased tracks (including outtakes from the original sessions). The 51 songs are spread out over two CDs (The Soul of Truth: Bootleg Vol. IV).
Cash’s son, John Carter Cash, provides liner notes with the collection describing his dad’s upbringing on gospel and his passion for recording and performing this style of music at a time when his record labels fought him on the decision.
Though many of the songs are predictably cheesy (I was going to say preachy, but come on it’s a gospel album, what else would it be?), there is no escaping the sincere emotion in Cash’s voice when he delivers these songs. And Cash could cover Justin Beiber’s tween pop catalogue and still come off sounding amazing.
Johnny Cash –The Soul of Truth: Bootleg Vol. IV/2 CDs/Columbia and Legacy/2012