Johnny Cash: Bootleg Vol 1V: The Soul of Truth
Johnny Cash never pushed his faith front and centre, but it was always there in his music. The same is true of release, which brings together a collection of songs, linked by their religious subject matter.
Cash's son, John Carter Cash, writes in the sleeve notes that “If not for gospel music, there never would have been a Johnny Cash.” Certainly his passion for the music shines on this collection of late 70s/ early 80s country gospel, most written by the man himself.
For an album of religious songs, 'The Soul of Truth' is far from preachy. Unless you're paying close attention, it is easy to overlook the fact that songs like 'Lay Me Down in Dixie' are actually explicitly religious, rather than just down-home tracks with a yearning note.
This two-CD collection also shows the variety of styles Cash was capable of embracing, from the simple country of 'Over the Next Hill We'll Be Home' to the funky soul of 'Strange Things Happening Every Day'. Like much of Cash's recordings, he is at his most musical at his most pared down, and the tracks that feature just him, a guitar, and perhaps a backing singer are powerful pieces of Americana.
Not everything in this fusion of country and gospel comes off. 'The Greatest Cowboy of All', which reinterprets Jesus as the prototypical American icon shows that this shtick can be taken too far. How much the listener appreciates the retelling of Biblical stories – such as 'I Was There When It Happened' – will likewise depend more on their appreciation of the Bible than on their appreciation of Cash.
But where the tackling of religious subjects is more subtly handled 'The Soul of Truth' is – as every album from Cash is – a stark reminder of what the world of music lost when he passed in 2003.
Most of the songs here have been released before, but were never widely available, something that seems disgraceful when hearing them now. This is indisputably a great collection of music, and far from the cobbled together and substandard fare that normally comprises posthumous releases. And if there is any more where this came from, its addition to the Cash canon cannot come too soon. Bring on 'Bootleg V'