Beyond being some of Johnny Cash's most brilliant work, his early '90s collaborations with Rick Rubin were celebrated for their sparseness after the tinny, technologically-obsessed studio practices of the 1980s laid waste to many a legacy artist's creative core. Recently discovered by John Carter Cash, the only child of Johnny and June Carter Cash, Out Among the Stars challenges conventional wisdom about Cash's artistic worth in the '80s. The songs here stem from sessions in 1981 and 1984 and were captured when Columbia Records, Cash's longtime label, had no earthly idea what to do with this "cowboy music" and ultimately shelved the project.
When Cash's son discovered the treasure in his late parents' vault, he realized it only needed minor tinkering (original guitarist Marty Stuart overdubbed new guitar and mandolin parts, etc.) and could stand tall as a record. There is a strength and clarity in Cash's voice here that is really remarkable — "She Used to Love Me A Lot" sends shivers down the spine, while "If I Told You Who It Was" is charming and fun) — given the demons that sent him to the Betty Ford Clinic for addiction in 1983. He wrote songs in there, including the spiritual "I Came To Believe," and he digs in his heels on "Baby Ride Easy" and the duet with Waylon Jennings on Hank Snow's "I'm Moving On."
Out Among the Stars is, at least contextually, a reminder that sometimes things got in Johnny Cash's way, but there are very few forces on Earth that could stifle his voice and conviction when he set his mind to getting a song across. (Legacy)