BY: HARRY LEVIN
“Do you know what people love about country music? It’s the stories. I love the stories. You know, about fallin' in love, and having love knock you around, and then the pressures of the world on you so tough it makes you feel small.”
Whether this was an actual quote from Ray Charles or it was solely a product of James L. White’s screenplay, Jamie Foxx’s sentiment in the 2004 film “Ray,” it is still just as true. This modern image of pick-up trucks, cowboy hats, and excessive amounts of sub-par beer, perpetuated by such country stars as Jason Aldean isn’t true country music. A more proper term would be “Cowboy Rock.” Country music has lost its way, and who better to put it back on the path than Johnny Cash.
Out Among the Stars is a posthumously released album from the legend himself, and it does exactly what country music should do: tell stories. Cash’s music never relied on complex composition or difficult execution. His voice maintains its unique resonance, and without huge distorted guitars or booming drum breaks to distract you, his messages of love, friendship, and forgiveness resonate through you as well. His wife and frequent collaborator, June Carter, makes more the a couple exquisite appearances on the album as well.
Despite the inherent simplicity of his methods, Cash still found away to incorporate all different kinds of music into Out Among the Stars. “Baby Ride Easy,” is an upbeat honky-tonk tune, “She Used to Love Me A Lot,” combines old-western blues guitar with acoustic folk. “Rock and Roll Shoes,” is a rhythmic 50’s rock tune. Every song album is decorated with subtle back up singers and a sense of cohesion that only comes when every musician is listening to every other musician. No modern country can compare.
Posthumous releases are something those of us who are alive should celebrate. They are a testament to the true immortality of music, and musicians. If Johnny Cash was just another forgettable cowboy rocker singing about barbecues, no one would bother releasing his material after his death. However, Johnny Cash, like all truly great country musicians, is a story teller, and we are blessed to be able to hear his stories of love and loss, even after he isn’t able to tell them himself.