Johnny Cash

Personal File (Columbia Legacy)

Immortalized by last year's somewhat sensationalized biopic Walk the Line and revered by the grunge generation — the result of his final Rick Rubin-produced recordings (a posthumous Volume V is due soon) — Johnny Cash cast a resilient and defiant persona that affirmed his status as an Americana icon. Personal File won't enhance Cash's renegade reputation; in fact it might even deflate it. Dating back to the early Seventies and discovered in storage in his home recording studio, these bare-bone demos offer musings on family, God, coming of age, and the places he recalled "so many times my memory's worn." More than four dozen tracks — unreleased originals as well as classic covers — make up this collection of home demos, all intimate, stripped-down performances featuring only Cash's rugged, rumbling vocals, sparse guitar, and some eloquent introductions. A wry sense of irony pervades several selections, from the clever bridegroom who sends his future father-in-law on a wild goose chase in the jaunty "Saginaw Michigan," to the waitress wanting to reconnect with her brother on the tender "My Mother Was a Lady." Simply listening feels intrusive, as if eavesdropping on these private moments might betray the sanctity of his introspection. Nevertheless, it's telling that even Cash's quietest reflections create such indelible impressions.

 
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