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2023 Albums Thing #065 - Johnny Cash “The Essential Johnny Cash”

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It doesn’t really matter which Johnny Cash “Best Of” collection you get, they will all have something missing purely because his recording career spanned almost 50 years. This one covers the 21 years from 1955 to 1976 which means there is nothing from the ensuing 27 years up to his death in 2003. So what you don’t get on here is anything like “Hurt”, a song that introduced Johnny Cash to a whole new audience in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. This is a trail back through Johnny’s “early” history.

I got my liking for Johnny Cash from my Dad. He had a couple of his records that I remember from when I was young. I’m guessing Dad liked the more radical songs of which there aren’t so many on here outside of “The Ballad Of Ira Hayes” (hey it’s a greatest hits cash in what did you expect ?). It would have been good for balance to include some of his more politically charged songs, something like “Singing’ In Talking’ Vietnam Blues” would have sat well. What you do get here is all the big hits (“Ring Over Fire”, “I Walk the Line”,  “A Boy Named Sue” etc.) but you do also get some lesser heralded gems like Johnny’s take on Kris Kristofferson’s incredible “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and his version of Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country”.

Personal favourites for me would be “Don’t Take Your Guns To Town” a song America should maybe pay closer attention to right now, “The One On The Right Is On The Left” an hilarious look at a folk group with differing political views ending with the advice “Now this should be a lesson if you plan to start a folk group, Don't go mixin' politics with the folk songs of our land”, and “Jackson” sung in duet with his wife June Carter-Cash.

I like that my Johnny Cash albums sit in my collection right beside the next artist we’ll be talking about as he was obviously a great influence upon him. I guess soon will come a time when Johnny Cash, like Elvis Presley and others before him, will hold no relevance for people. It’ll be a great shame but it happens. But what should never be forgotten is that Johnny Cash was as important to American music as Elvis or Gershwin or Sinatra or Motown or any of the greats, and this record goes a little way toward explaining why.

Sunday Morning Coming Down - https://youtu.be/8_xd5jG3JTA

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