Essential & Proud
The Essential Johnny Cash, is the perfect title for this album because it displays Johnny's musical abilities through the decades of his career. The first song on this album is Hey Porter, from Johnny's early days at Sun Records. This tune is so up tempo and jaunty that you almost forget the simplicity of its content (nothing more than a song about a man who carries luggage on a train). Nevertheless, Johnny and his band mates deliver a rocking rendition of the song that will lift your spirits.
There is significance behind another song on this recording. I Walk The Line was not only one of Cash's biggest hits, but since he did not have a drummer at the time, Cash placed a dollar bill between the strings of his guitar and strummed it while recording this track. Johnny's idea for this really paid off since I myself thought there was a drummer on this song at first. Plus, Johnny's powerful singing and Luther Perkins only playing on two strings of his electric guitar give this song that unique "Tennessee Three Piece Combo" vibe.
The almost angelic-like background vocals on The Rebel Johnny Yuma is probably the highlight of the song as Johnny blends his lead vocals smoother than glass.
As this album moves on to Johnny's hits from the 1960s, one can't help but find Ring Of Fire, as the most enjoyable track of that decade. Whether it's the twin Mariachi-style trumpets that carry the tune or the "train traveling down a track" beat, this tune is sure to please any music lover.
There also are a few duets on this album. The one that sticks out the most has to be Jackson, which Johnny sings with his wife June Carter Cash. Johnny and June show their true love for their Southern roots by excitedly chanting this anthem about taking a vacation to Jackson, Tennessee.
As this recording continues to journey through the years of Cash's music, any fan of Johnny's would have to take pleasure in his self-penned composition, The Man In Black. In this song, Cash explains why he always wears black. For Johnny, wearing black is not just a fashion style, but mainly a declaration as he references in the lyrics that he wears to honor people who have hard lives and Vietnam troops (since this song was written at the height of the war). Cash's voice proclaims his beliefs and the listener would not be wrong to get a determined feeling in their bones.
This album is sure to give any music lover enjoyment and pleasure. It is free for listening on Spotify and you can pull up every song on YouTube.