To say that Walk The Line is one of my favourite movies, it’s been surprisingly difficult to find a Johnny Cash CD that I like. Within the flavour of Johnny Cash music is a particular sub-flavour that I can find in very few places, and seems most present in his later performances. It’s this hard-to-find sub-flavour that really gets to me.
I picked up the CD The Legend of Johnny Cash mainly for the song The Man Comes Around, not expecting to enjoy much else on the CD. The playlist on this disc really caught me off guard. It spans his entire career from 1955 to 2003, and it’s mostly the later songs that hold that sub-flavour I’ve been looking for. The Wanderer has such a deep story to it, Highwayman spawned a series of short poems my father and I wrote to each other, but the song I ended up replaying over and over the night I got the CD was Rusty Cage.
I’ve been wondering what it is about his later performances that I prefer so much. I say “performance” rather than “song” because even many of his earlier songs sound much better to me later in his career. I realized one big difference is the creative use of instruments. Let’s face it, he didn’t have a wide variety of ideas at first. But later on he revisited many of those old songs and added new instruments and new sounds – and they worked.
But another big difference is the depth of soul. Johnny’s soul was deep to begin with, more so than most. But as he aged his soul became too deep to reach.
My church recently did a series of sermons on the book of Lamentations, and as I mulled over the themes and messages of this book I related it to the song Cry! Cry! Cry!.
When I listen to I’ve Been Everywhere I picture the truck driver staring at him and saying, “It was just a question…”
One problem with this CD is that when you take it out of the case Johnny Cash flips you off. It seems an odd way to say, “Thank you for buying my CD.” But I suppose that was his way. Perhaps the picture was taken after the cameraman pointed out to Cash that he was wearing a white suit…