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Johnny Cash
Cash: Ultimate Gospel
Legacy Recordings

Most of us are familiar with the story of Johnny Cash. At least as much of it as Hollywood has seen fit to tell us, and the most recent film Walk The Line was a great look into the life of one of music's finest gentlemen and songwriters. What a lot of folks don't know, and one of the things that Hollywood never fails to neglect in the telling, is that Johnny Cash was quite a man of God, among the other things. From his earliest recordings Cash knew that gospel music was as much a part of his career as twangy honky-tonk or rock and roll, and he kept that faith even unto his last record. Cash always recorded songs about faith and God, and collected here are some of his finest from all facets of his early career.

There are tracks that Cash's fans are intimately familiar with, including his amazing takes on classics like "In The Sweet By And By", Swing Low, Sweet Chariot", and "He Turned The Water Into Wine". Possibly the best known of Johnny's early gospel tracks was "I Was There When It Happened", and that track is included here in its glory, with its splendid background chorus and Luther Perkins' simple and pure telecaster playing. The bluegrass classic "The Great Speckle Bird" is here, minus the Carter Family, but glorious nonetheless. Johnny's versions of "Amazing Grace" and "There'll Be Peace In The Valley (For Me)" are tremendous, and bring out a contemporary feel in those classic hymns. "Daddy Sang Bass" is classic Cash rock, along with wonderful vocal backing from June Carter, and wraps up the collection beautifully with the hopping "Children Go Where I Send Thee".

There are a couple of tracks here that are previously unreleased, and while I'm not sure of that fact, I've never heard them before now. Johnny gives an amazing rendition of the classic Baptist hymn "How Great Thou Art", accompanied simply by piano and organ, staying much more true to a church-like feel without the electric guitars. "It Is No Secret (What God Can Do)" mixes a bit more honky-tonk feel in with the piano and swinging drums, while "My Ship Will Sail" is simplified; Johnny singing along to a basic bass and drum track until the glorious background singers come chiming in. If you are a Cash fan and you've never heard these tracks, then this collection becomes even more essential.

The beauty of these songs is that they reflect the faith and passion of a young Johnny Cash for the gospel and the teachings of Christ. The difference between these early tracks and the later songs that Johnny recorded is the experience of living, and the unique knowledge of God's grace that comes with a lifetime of that living. These songs are a bit naïve at times, lacking in the conviction of life's hard-learned truths, but they are classics and an essential part of any Cash collection.

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:
1. Here Was A Man (Live)
2. The Preacher Said, "Jesus Said"
3. I Was There When It Happened
4. Belshazzar
5. That's Enough
6. It Was Jesus
7. The Old Account
8. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
9. The Great Speckle Bird
10. He'll Understand And Say Well Done
11. How Great Thou Art
12. It Is No Secret (What God Can Do)
13. He Turned Water Into Wine
14. Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)
15. Troublesome Waters
16. (There'll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me)
17. The Roll Is Called Up Yonder
18. In The Sweet By And By
19. My Ship Will Sail
20. Far Side Banks Of Jordan
21. Oh Come, Angel Band
22. Amazing Grace
23. Daddy Sang Bass
24. Children Go Where I Send Thee

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