Johnny Cash, Sun Recordings

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Largely covers, this is an undeniable bonanza for Johnny Cash fans.

Cash cut all these sides as part of the conditions for leaving Sun Records; in other words, he did it more or less against his will. Still, he was too proud a man to goldbrick the sessions completely, and this collection is not without interest. For one thing, here we begin to see some of the theretofore-hidden Johnny Cash we later came to know and love. Sam Phillips kept a close watch on the material he cut initially at Sun; for example, one of the reasons Cash decided to leave was that the boss wouldn't let him record gospel music, his first love. Here, as an unsupervised lame duck, he turns in a fervent "I Was There When It Happened." Until it no longer mattered, he also couldn't cut such folkie material at Sun as Leadbelly's "Goodnight Irene" and Lonnie Donegan's "Rock Island Line," though such songs always played a significant role in his repertoire. And there's nearly half an album's worth of Hank Williams songs here, some of them ("I Heard That Lonesome Whistle") seemingly tailor-made for Cash. This package may not be for everybody, but it's an undeniable bonanza for Johnny Cash fans.