Cash back for posthumous album

Johnny Cash. Photo: PA Photo/Handout/Norman Seeff
Johnny Cash. Photo: PA Photo/Handout/Norman Seeff

Posthumous releases are nothing new.

The first notable album issued after an artist’s death was Otis Redding’s The Dock Of The Bay, released in 1968 just a few weeks after he’d died in a plane crash.

Latest in this long line comes Out Among The Stars by Johnny Cash.

It’s not his first posthumous album - that was 2003’s Unearthed, released two months after he died - and it won’t be the last. It is, however, different from the others in that it wasn’t recorded in the few years before his death, but over various sessions in 1981 and 1984, and seemingly stockpiled for a rainy day.

It’s almost exactly as Cash had been planning to release it, if his record label Columbia hadn’t scrapped the whole idea.

“This is new,” says his son and leading light of the Johnny Cash Trust, John Carter Cash. “This album is a cohesive body of work to me, not bits we’ve put together - it sounds whole. And it’s from a period in Johnny Cash’s life that not many people know about.”

He’s right. Under the modern narrative of Cash’s career, you could be forgiven for not even believing that the self-styled Man In Black was even making records in the Eighties.

There’s been a great deal of revisionism, since Cash teamed up with producer Rick Rubin in 1993 to start what would become the seven-strong American Recordings series of albums.

“He was in a prime, if not the prime,” says Carter Cash. “Vocally, he sounded fantastic. He was physically and spiritually focused. And that’s why this is an undiscovered treasure.

“It makes a statement, which all great Johnny Cash records do,” he continues. “Through the diversity of his music, there is always a strong statement; of his great enduring love for God, for my mom, or the darkness in his spirit.”