Johnny Cash was a prolific musician. His career spanned nearly fifty years. During that time, he released some of the most enduring songs ever recorded. Tracks like “Ring of Fire,” “I Walk the Line,” and “Folsom Prison Blues,” are timeless fan favorites. However, they are just the barest edge of the Man in Black’s expansive catalog. So deep was the well of his recordings that Legendary Recordings was able to put out a two-disc set of unreleased material three years after his death. That collection is called Personal File.
Posthumously released albums are far from rare. However, it seems that they are usually greatest hits collections. Sometimes, the last project an artist worked on will drop after their death. Personal File is a different kind of album altogether. Johnny Cash recorded the songs in this collection between the mid-seventies and early eighties.
Personal File contains 49 unreleased songs. Most of them are either covers or old folk or gospel tunes. However, there are 14 original songs. One of the most interesting things about the album is that it doesn’t seem to have been created for a wide release. Instead, Johnny Cash recorded all of these songs at his home studio in Hendersonville, Tennessee, according to Allmusic.
What You’ll Find in Johnny Cash’s Personal File
Johnny Cash recorded all of the songs on this album by himself. They’re all solo acoustic performances. There’s something incredibly personal about the renditions. Cash introduces a handful of the songs. This makes it feel like a kind of audio journal.
The stories between the songs bring some real depth to the collection. He talks about learning songs from other artists just because he loved the songs or respected their creators. Johnny Cash says that he never properly recorded any of them but still sang them all the time. He also tells short stories about his friendship with some legendary artists such as Johnny Horton.
The first disc is mostly made up of cover songs. The variety of sources from which Johnny Cash drew for this collection is impressive in and of itself. Cash covers The Carter Family, John Prine, Johnny Horton, and his stepdaughter Cathleen Carter among others.
The second disc of the collection is made up of spiritual songs. Johnny Cash was a man of faith and these songs are an examination of that. The tunes on this disc range from well-known hymns to unreleased originals. If you can’t make it to church for whatever reason, Cash will take you there on this disc. He does great renditions of “Lily of the Valley,” and “The Way-Worn Traveler.”
This disc also contains a song co-written by Johnny Cash and June Carter-Cash. “Matthew 24 (Is Knocking at the Door)” is a short but powerful tune. The 24th chapter of the Book of Matthew details the signs of the end of days. So, as you could imagine, it’s all about how the time of man is drawing to a close. It’s a beautiful combination of Cash’s faith and his signature dark and poetic songwriting.
In short, this is treat for Johnny Cash fans. If you haven’t heard this one, put it on. You won’t regret it.