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Johnny Cash

Sings The Ballads Of The True West – 2000 (DCC)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

As a straight-up reissue, 1965's "Songs Of The True West" resonates with creative risk and backwoods wisdom. In the narrative sections, Cash's imagery is eloquent yet spare, and his honest, expressive baritone never sounded more poignant.

Musically, the Carter Sisters and the Statler Brothers bring rousing vocal color and authenticity to many songs. Though a few public domain ditties seem overly familiar, potent tunes from Carl Perkins and Mother Maybelle refine the different emotional spectrums of Cash's down-home historical vision. Cash himself fairly revels in the odes to evil gunman and comedic ditties of men being hung. Less a lost masterpiece than an undervalued experiment, this outing proves that even during his dark years of addiction, Cash could still deliver first-rate, occasionally inspired work.