Bootleg, Vol. 4: The Soul of Truth
Sony/Legacy's Johnny Cash Bootleg Series (this set of rare gospel performances from the 1970s and '80s is the fourth volume) plays a little fast and loose with the concept of "bootleg," since most of the material on these sets was actually officially released at one time, although, to be fair, there are plenty of unreleased tracks scattered throughout each volume. This doesn't make the series unwelcome, however, because Sony/Legacy has made some very hard to find Cash tracks available again. The gospel tracks and songs of faith included in this volume are drawn mainly from the album A Believer Sings the Truth, which was originally issued by the small Cachet Records label in 1979 (and then reissued in 1982 on CBS' Priority Records gospel imprint), along with four sides that appeared on the album I Believe, issued by Arrival Records in 1984, plus 14 sides cut for Priority Records in 1982, intended for an album called Johnny Cash: Gospel Singer, which was never released, although ten of the tracks would eventually appear on the album Believe in Him, issued by Word Records in 1986. There are also outtakes from these sessions, and a handful of other cuts that were tracked but never previously released. Cash was a true American treasure and icon, and while he worked in a wide variety of forms, from folk and country to gospel and spoken word, his key themes were always God, country, and family, and no matter what he was singing or recording, he was always unmistakably Johnny Cash. Sony/Legacy's "bootleg" series may not actually be bootlegs in the true definition of the word, but they are still very welcome additions to Cash's discography, bringing together tracks that are almost impossible to find otherwise.