Johnny Cash, "Out Among the Stars" (Columbia Legacy)
Thirty years after getting shelved, a nearly forgotten Johnny Cash album is being made public for the first time. "Out Among the Stars" may not rank with the legendary material that made Cash an American icon, but it carries plenty of quality work typical of his recordings from the early 1980s, when these songs were originally cut.
Working with producer Billy Sherrill -- who at the time was creating top hits with George Jones and David Allan Coe -- Cash breezes through a well-selected series of songs, mixing the sentimental ("Tennessee") with the spiritual ("I Came to Believe") and the humorous ("If I Told You Who It Was"). Sherrill keeps the mood light, even on darker fare like "She Used to Love Me a Lot," an album standout.
Fans will find plenty to enjoy, including two rollicking duets: a cover of Hank Snow's "I'm Movin' On" with Waylon Jennings and a sprightly "Baby Ride Easy" with wife June Carter Cash (on a song previously cut by her daughter, Carlene Carter).
At the time, Cash was a decade beyond when he regularly released top country hits and a decade prior to his creative resurrection with the series of American recordings made with producer Rick Rubin from 1994 until the singer's death in 2003. But the Country Music Hall of Fame member's love for good songs shines bright on "Out Among the Stars."