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Lost Johnny Cash album released today

The CD cover of Cut Among the Stars, by Johnny Cash, in an image released by Legacy Recordings.

Out Among the Stars, featuring 12 songs written in early ’80s, was found in 2012

Johnny Cash’s music lives on. The Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter, who passed away in 2003, has a new album coming out today. The 12 songs on Out Among the Stars were written in the early 1980s, but languished until being discovered in 2012 by John Carter Cash — Johnny’s only child with his second wife, June Carter Cash. For John, who helped produce and curate the album, “It was like coming face-to-face with my dad. He’s in perfect voice.”

Thirty years after getting shelved, a nearly forgotten Johnny Cash album is being made public for the first time. Out Among The Stars may not rank with the legendary material that made Cash an American icon, but it carries plenty of quality work typical of his recordings from the early 1980s, when these songs were originally cut.

Working with producer Billy Sherrill — who at the time was creating top hits with George Jones and David Allan Coe — Cash breezes through a well-selected series of songs, mixing the sentimental (Tennessee) with the spiritual (I Came To Believe) and the humorous (If I Told You Who It Was). Sherrill keeps the mood light, even on darker fare like She Used to Love Me a Lot, an album standout.

Fans will find plenty to enjoy, including two rollicking duets: a cover of Hank Snow’s I’m Movin’ On with Waylon Jennings and a sprightly Baby Ride Easy with wife June Carter Cash (on a song previously cut by her daughter, Carlene Carter).

At the time, Cash was a decade beyond when he regularly released top country hits and a decade prior to his creative resurrection with the series of American recordings made with producer Rick Rubin from 1994 until the singer’s death in 2003. But the Country Music Hall of Fame member’s love for good songs shines bright on Out Among The Stars.”

Last year, the recordings (which include duets with June Carter Cash and Waylon Jennings) were unearthed by archivists at Sony Legacy and Cash’s son, John Carter Cash.

“When my parents passed away (in 2003, just months apart), it became necessary to go through their things, to look through the storage facilities and to see what all was there,” John Carter Cash, who co-produced Out Among The Stars, told the Toronto Sun in a recent interview.

“But there (was) this wondrous bit of unheard music... Sony Legacy has put out a few things already but this stood out as a unique body of work and a meaningful statement by my father from a period in his life, and his career, where he wasn’t getting the appropriate attention I believe,” JCC said.

Cash’s son remembered his father’s struggle with drug addiction in the early ’80s before going to rehab and making a turn-around in 1984. “In 1984 when these recordings on Out Among The Stars were done, my father was clear-headed, he was focused, he was intuitive. His relationship with his spouse was as close as it ever had been. They were strong together. The family home life was wonderful. I travelled with them on the road quite a bit back then. But, in listening to this record, and going back on working on it, and getting reacquainted with this time in my life, I’m getting to spend time with my old best friend again because that’s the man that I remember from these years,” JCC told the Toronto Sun.

Out Among The Stars will probably get more attention now, 11 years after Cash’s death, than it would have if Columbia Records had released the album in 1984. “He was singing his heart out at that time; nobody cared,” said Marty Stuart, who was part of Cash’s road band and played guitar and mandolin both on the original sessions and when instrumentation was added last year. “But it didn't matter what he sang, he could still make a living being Johnny Cash. Let him put a black coat on and walk through the middle of Missouri, or an airport, and he would still lay the place to waste,” Stuart told reporters.

Had the album been released when it was made, “it would not have changed a thing” commercially, Stuart says. However, he believes Out Among The Stars points toward Cash’s later recordings with Rubin, which would bring a career resurgence and cement his reputation as one of the prominent figures in American music.

Herald with AP, online media

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