Last night I floated like a ghost past the strip club, under the freeway, over the railroad tracks, past the big electric sign and refrigeration companies and worn out corners until I got to the super-center. I needed milk, inner tubes for my bike, and dog treats. Of course, my cart started filling up with much more than just that. And in the middle of my 11pm shopping excursion I stumbled across the music/video section. As I stared (half-angrily) at the so-called “top sellers” in the country department (it’s where my cart stopped), I remembered coming across a new Johnny Cash collection on the iTunes Music Store.
So I now have Personal File. It’s a collection of recordings Johnny made (circa 1973-1980) in his studio. It’s just Johnny and his guitar: the same kind of intimate, personal, and raw sound that made the first American Recordings album such a standout. Some of these pieces are recognizable, such as When it’s Springtime in Alaska, It’s 40 Below and Jim, I Wore a Tie Today. Many songs have stories attached to them - why Johnny remembers it, why he wrote it, why he sings it, etc. It was a style seen on some of his commercial albums from that time, although those were accompanied by a larger band and sound.
The second disc of Personal File hasn’t grabbed me much. It’s fairly religious, and while I respect Johnny Cash’s religious strength, I have little interest in it. There are some nice songs on that disc though. But the first disc is the good one. It’s from a good time in Johnny’s life - settling into his life with June, his drug days behind him. The voice is powerful, most of the songs quite rich. A very enjoyable listen.