Johnny Cash's son talks lost album 'Out Among the Stars'
So how on earth do you lose an album by a bona fide country icon? Well, it helped that back in the early ‘80s, Cash was not exactly flavor of the month, C&W-wise. “Johnny Cash did not quite fit,” says John Carter Cash, the producer son of Johnny and June Carter Cash. Cash recorded the tracks with producer Billy Sherrill who at the time was the A&R chief at CBS Records Nashville, but even his imprimatur couldn’t get the collection released at the time. “I think he made the record which was correct for Johnny Cash,” says John Carter. “However, Columbia didn’t know what to do with it so this record was literally shelved.”
The tracks were rediscovered when John Carter and Cash experts were cataloging the vast archives of his parents, who both died in 2003. “When they passed away, it became necessary to go through hundreds of audio tapes,” he explains. “The [Out Among the Stars tracks] stand out to me as a unique body of work. This is the time when he was in his prime. He relapsed into drug addiction in the early part of the 1980s, and in 1983 he want to rehab, and he came out focused and bright.”
The tracks were originally recorded with a group of musicians which included singer-guitarist Marty Stuart. Almost three decades on, Cash’s son rerecruited Stuart, among other other musicians, to help polish the material. “The original production was immaculate but this record was unfinished,” says John Carter. “There were guitar solos missing and similar things like that. Mr Sherrill is completely retired from the music business. So I went in with my coproducer Steve Berkowitz and we made some adjustments here and there. I called Marty Stuart up and I said, ‘Marty, you’re a better guitar player right now than you were in 1984. Why don’t you come back in the studio and replace your guitar parts?’”
The songs on Out Among The Stars include two duets with June Carter Cash (“Baby Ride Easy,” “Don’t You Think It’s Come Our Time”) and a version of Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On” which finds The Man In Black sharing vocals with fellow country legend Waylon Jennings. “I was there the day Waylon Jennings walked in off the street and he and my father spontaneously decided to record it,” says John Carter. “It’s amazing that nothing was every done with it. I mean, here’s a classic recording by two of country’s greatest icons — and it’s been sitting there gathering dust for 30 years.”
John Carter says that fans can expect at least one more collection of unreleased material from his father, but that he has no intention of releasing substandard tracks just because they haven’t been heard previously. “It’s got to be right,” he says. It’s got to be correct. It can’t just be released to be released, you know. It’s got to say something unique.”
You can check out the Out Among The Stars track “She Used To Love Me A Lot” below: