The Music Box's #3 reissue of 2006
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2006, Volume 13, #6
Written by John Metzger
Thu June 22, 2006, 12:00 AM CDT
Culling 49 tracks from several boxes of tapes, which were found locked inside a vault in Johnny Cash’s home recording studio, Personal File offers a strange yet wonderfully insightful glimpse into the inner workings of The Man in Black. As he runs through a gamut of standards, obscure original compositions, and contemporary fare, Cash conjures a world where John Prine and Rodney Crowell commingle with the Louvin Brothers and the Carter Family. Presumably begun in July 1973 and updated sporadically until the early ’80s, the collection features Cash accompanied only by himself in a fashion that alludes to his then-future collaborations with Rick Rubin under the American Recordings moniker.
Emphasizing the same core themes that long have pervaded Cash’s work, the first half of Personal File focuses upon love and family, although the specter of death is never far from reach, while the latter portion of the set is devoted entirely to his ruminations upon faith and God. Throughout the endeavor, Cash’s voice is in fine form as he captures the pain and anguish within The Engineer’s Dying Child, the broken-hearted yearning of I Don’t Believe You Wanted to Leave, and the resounding joy of Wildwood in the Pines. Elsewhere, he turns his stepdaughter Carlene Carter’s It Takes One to Know Me into a touching declaration of undying affection for his family, while on I Wanted So, he conveys the devastating thoughts and regrets of a man who failed to connect with his father until it was too late. Bolstered by several spoken word introductions during which he provides definition for why a song was written or where he first heard it, Personal File frequently feels like a visitation from a tribal elder who is intent upon passing along to the next generation all of the wisdom that he has learned in his life. Consequently, it is as intimate and unvarnished a depiction of Cash as there ever is likely to be.
Of Further Interest...
Personal File is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box