For the most recent addition to the Johnny Cash Bootleg Series, Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings dipped into the deep well of Cash's gospel and spiritual recordings for Columbia and smaller boutique labels throughout the 1970s and '80s. This set is unique from its predecessors thanks in large part to the three full-length studio albums contained within.
The 2-disc, 51-track collection, released in conjunction with ongoing celebrations of Cash's 80th birthday, gets off to a tremendous start thanks to the 20 songs he recorded in 1979 for his "A Believer Sings The Truth" album. Cash originally released the double LP on his own Cachet record label before Columbia Records decided to release a truncated version of the set on its Priority Records imprint in 1982. Both versions had very limited distribution.
There is an obvious exuberance on the "A Believer Sings The Truth" tracks. Some of the best songs like Gospel Boogie (A Wonderful Time Up There) and The Greatest Cowboy Of Them All are reminiscent of Cash's early-career gospel recordings, while up-tempo numbers like I'm A New Born Man and I've Got Jesus In My Soul, featuring a jazzy clarinet lead, are also standouts.
On the second disc, 22 of the 26 songs come from two other Cash albums - an unnamed collection of 1975 recordings that have largely not seen the light of day prior to this set and "Johnny Cash - Gospel Singer," a long out-of-print album originally released in the early '80s.
Second-disc highlights include the sing-along inducing testimonial I Was There When It Happened, the low and vocal-driven You're Drifting Away, the impassioned plea of Don't Give Up On Me and Far Side Banks Of Jordan, a twangy duet with wife June Carter Cash.