The Johnny Cash album Out Among the Stars will be released this Tuesday, 11 years after Cash’s death. Recorded in 1981 and 1984, Cash never released the album, perhaps because he might have thought at the time, “What’s the point?”
Four years previously, he’d joined the Country Music Hall of Fame, but by 1984, Johnny Cash wasn’t having much commercial success any longer. Since then, Cash had only managed to hit the top ten once. Most of the albums Johnny Cash released in the 1980s didn’t chart at all, though he was arguably in his prime as a signer and songwriter.
Johnny Cash wrote the last song on the album, “Came to Believe,” while he was in rehab.
Out Among the Stars contains a dozen songs that haven’t yet been released. John Carter Cash, Johnny Cash’s son, worked on restoring the recordings. They were originally produced by Billy Sherrill.
John Carter Cash has stated that finding the “lost album” was “like finding an old Van Gogh in your closet.” If the album is a big seller, which it very likely will be, it could eventually net as much as some Van Gogh’s would.
The album will probably get more attention now than it would have, if it had been released in 1984 by Columbia Records. Even though Johnny Cash was still “singing his heart out,” as Marty Stuart, a member of Johnny Cash’s road band, stated, on Out Among the Stars, according to StevensPoint Journal and USA Today, “nobody cared.” In fact, not long after Johnny Cash recorded this album, he was dropped by Columbia records.
What sorts of songs are on Out Among the Stars by Johnny Cash?
The album Out Among the Stars contains a couple of duets Johnny Cash sings with his wife, June Carter Cash, and some of Cash’s darker songs, like the title track, “Out Among the Stars.” Also, there’s some more humorous songs, like “If I Told You Who I Was,” about a surprising meeting with another of the era’s country stars. There’s also a great version of the Hank Snow song “I’m Movin’ On” included, which Cash sings with Waylon Jennings.
According to John Carter Cash, there is still quite a bit of material which his father recorded that has not yet been released. It hasn’t yet been released, in part, because John Carter Cash would like any album of material that is released to “make sense as a release.”
Johnny Cash had a resurgence in his career in the 1990s with Rick Rubin as his producer, but the material on Out Among the Stars still contains some very good songs and helps fills in a part of his career that many of Cash’s fans “don’t know as much about,” according to Johnny’s son.
Besides restoring the tracks, John Carter Cash called in musicians like Stuart, who helped enliven the tracks by laying down new guitar solos. Also, Jerry Douglas added some great dobro playing, and one of June Carter’s daughters from a previous marriage, Carlene Carter, sang on “Baby Ride Easy,” one of the duets Cash sang with his wife.
Though there are some darker tracks on the album, John Carter Cash also points out that there’s humor in many of the songs on Out Among the Stars.
For example, even on a song on the album about suicide, “I Drove Her Out of My Mind,” about how a car dealer is going to feel after he commits suicide in a vehicle by driving off of Lookout Mountain in Tennessee, John says that his father is really trying to be light-hearted about the ridiculousness of the situation.
Out Among the Stars might not become a chart-topper, but it will be an album that all fans of Johnny Cash will want to have. Thanks to John Carter Cash, this lost Van Gogh will be available to his fans this coming Tuesday.
Written by: Douglas Cobb