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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