105 Young Gods, Strip Search


105 Courtney Love, Speedway




Cash Unearthed box set (American Recordings) .00.

n 1993 Johnny Cash was without

a record deal. He was still

performing live with some regularity but his profile was a shadow of that in his heyday of the 605 and 705. A chance introduction to a young Californian record producer by the name of Rick Rubin changed all that and subsequently led to one of the most productive recording relationships of the last 20 years. This box tells the story of that relationship.

Given the recent passing of Cash, it makes a fitting epitaph for one of country music’s most beguiling men. It was not meant as an epitaph however. The plan had always been for a box celebrating ten years of Cash’s work with Rubin and only its timing gives the set added poignancy.

Up until then, Rick Rubin had been responsible for capturing on tape the musical maelstrom of everyone from the Cult and Slayer to Run DMC and most infamously, the Beastie Boys. Rubin’s style didn’t instantly seem suitable with a country singer, maverick or not, but in these recordings Rubin captured the magic and power of Cash’s songwriting and that oh-so sonorous baritone of his.

Cash described working with Rubin as being not unlike his days in Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios in Memphis in the early part of his career while Phillips was building the million dollar quartet with Cash, Elvis Presley,


Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. They would spend days just cranking out

song after song for as long as Cash’s voice held out, hence the sheer quantity available for this box.

Minimalism was a tool often utilised by Cash in the past and this collection shows how much could be done with so little. The five CDs are extensively annotated in an accompanying 64-page booklet by Sylvie Simmons. The first three within the box, Who’s Gonna Cry, Trouble in Mind and Redemption Songs, are a compelling blend of songs old and new, covers and originals and various collaborations with young turks like Nick Cave, Fiona Apple and Flea as well as old friends like Willie Nelson and Carl Perkins.

The fourth is entitled My Mother’s Hymn Book and is just that - a collection of songs he recalled from his childhood. This is Cash at his most stark, he sings unaccompanied, which can be hard at times but it only helps reinforce the gravity of the man’s voice.

The final instalment is The Best of Cash on America culling the highlights from his last five albums recorded 1993-2002. Given Rubin’s eclectic musical tastes it was inevitable some of his musical eccentricities would permeate the recording process. Covers of songs by Tom Petty, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen may seem logical but some of the real highlights from the five albums Cash and Rubin recorded in the American series were from more contemporary artists. U2’s ‘One’ is stripped of pomposity and filled with pain while Nick Cave’s ‘The Mercy Seat’ is real high drama. His


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1 1 1 Karen Dunbar, The Deputy


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1 15 Snowboarding in France


1 17 Tapa Coffee & Bakehouse


Cash Unearthed: an epitaph for one of country music's most beguiling men


interpretation of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Hurt’ won a Grammy for its promo video where Marc Romanek juxtaposed images of Cash young and old to breathtaking and heartbreaking effect and his rendition fittingly brings the collection to a close. Fitting in a way, as this was the last big hurrah for Cash, who finally succumbed to complications from diabetes on 12 September 2003.

These recordings are no filler and show a man at the top of his game despite having nothing prove, and are a fitting tribute to his most fruitful of twilight years. (Mark Robertson)

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