Music, Outlaw Country

Previously unreleased Johnny Cash, Out Among the Stars

by Derek Pyle

Lately, there’s been a lot of really good Johnny Cash on my Sirius/XM satellite radio, but it took me a few weeks to figure out why: the Man in Black has released a new album. It is a record endowed with a few duds, but some fantastic takes as well.

Like many posthumous releases, Out Among the Stars compiles various hitherto “forgotten” songs, which where recorded in the early 1980s with producer Billy Sherrill. But this is not merely a collection of unwanted B-sides. While featuring overdubbed instrumental parts, the album’s production is spacious and certainly showcases Cash. Chronologically the album stands between Cash’s earlier country success and his later, final music, which was marked by darker themes and grim-sounding vocals. (The most famous cut from this later period is Cash’s cover of the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt.”) It is a time of searching for Johnny Cash, as the man was grappling with addiction and recovery, and marooned in between periods of public acclaim. Trigger, a reviewer from Saving Country Music, described “the song material on this album [as] somewhat indicative of [Cash] searching for direction. It is sort of the take of two Johnnys—one introspective, dark, and even disturbed at times, and the other the more ‘aw-shucks’ Arkansas boy.” Continue reading