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Johnny Cash - Personal File Review

by Kevin Wierzbicki

An amazing amount of recordings have been unearthed at the House of Cash, the home recording studio of the late Johnny Cash. Among the hundreds of reels of tapes were many that Johnny had marked "personal file" and that's where the forty-nine previously unreleased songs on this double-disc set come from. All of the tracks are pure Cash; just Johnny singing and playing acoustic guitar. This collection will not be of much interest to fans that want to hear stuff like "Jackson" or "Ring of Fire" but will totally delight those who wish to catch a glimpse into the legend's psyche. Cash gives spoken intros to many of the tunes explaining his inspiration to write certain songs at certain times or in the case of some of the cover tunes, where he was when he first heard the song. A couple of fluffs are left in tact too where Cash stops mid-song and starts over again. It's difficult to picture Cash sitting there alone as he sings chestnuts like "Galway Bay" or Doug Kershaw's "Louisiana Man" but it's like he's sitting in your living room when he tells the stories of "Saginaw, Michigan," "Girl in Saskatoon" or "When it's Springtime in Alaska (It's Forty Below)." The intimacy that Cash shares with his listeners is especially gripping on the second disc which is comprised solely of gospel and inspirational numbers, mostly self-penned. The bulk of this material was recorded in the '70s but fans of Cash's recent American Recordings series will find many similarities to those releases.

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