Review Summary: The second release from Johnny Cash released after he had left for major label, Columbia.
This is the second album by Johnny Cash, released on the Sun Records Label in 1958. Sun had already lost Cash to Columbia Records but they still had enough tracks in the vault to put out another album. As with the first release on Sun from Cash, these songs are minimalist, devoid of excess fat, with acoustic strumming mimicking the missing percussion element, often capturing a rhythmic train feel that’s fits perfectly with the song. I don’t know why ‘I Walk The Line’ is included again, after it’s first outing on the debut Long Player, but it’s pretty much the Cash signature song and bears repeated listening. We also have ‘Big River’ making its first appearance. The Secret Sisters recorded a version of the song in 2011, with Jack White playing backing guitar, so some 52 years after it first appeared, the weeping willow was still being taught how to cry and the clouds how to cover up a clear blue sky, which is testament to the enduring nature of the song. Cash himself re-recorded the song with the Highwaymen (Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson) in ’84 and there is an interesting version, which has a couple of false starts, included as a bonus track on ‘Last Man Standing (American Outakes)’.
Eleven of the original twelve tracks here hit the top-10 of the county charts, four of them reaching the top, and five crossed over to the pop charts, with three of them pushing into the top 20. When released this album was really a compilation of those successful Cash Sun singles of '56, '57 and '58 as the ‘45 was the primary sales vehicle at the time, so collecting so many together in the same place was good business. This does mean though that there are different production values from track to track, giving the album the feel of a compilation, and leaves me wondering whether they would benefit from being re-mastered or whether some of that homespun feel would be lost in the process.
The brevity of the songs is indicative of their original format as singles, with not one exceeding 3 minutes. Nor do any of them need to be any longer, with each story being told clearly and succinctly, without unnecessary adornments. They are simple song s of love lost, never found or unrequited, but there is a certain gravitas applied when they are performed by Cash. As with many of the great performers, he is able to convey the feeling that he has been there, and is sharing his own experiences with the audience, making the lyrics not just words from a song, but words from a life.
1."Ballad of a Teenage Queen" (Jack Clement) – 2:13
2."There You Go" (Cash) – 2:19
3."I Walk the Line" (Cash) – 2:46
4."Don't Make Me Go" (Cash) – 2:31
5."Guess Things Happen That Way" (Clement) – 1:52
6."Train of Love" (Cash) – 2:24
7."The Ways of a Woman in Love" (Bill Justis, Charlie Rich) – 2:16
8."Next in Line" (Cash) – 2:49
9."You're the Nearest Thing to Heaven" (Jim Atkins, Cash, Hoyt Johnson) – 2:42
10."I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You)" (Hank Williams) – 1:49
11."Home of the Blues" (Cash, Glen Douglas, Vic McAlpin) – 2:41
12."Big River" (Cash) – 2:35
Total run time 28:57 with 6 tracks on each side of vinyl.
Johnny Cash — Main Performer
Luther Perkins – Guitar
Marshall Grant – Bass
Sam Phillips – Producer
Jack Clement - Producer