I have been a Johnny Cash fan my entire life. Seriously. Ever since my dad turned me onto his old 78 RPM records like “The Wreck of The Old 97” and of course “Folsom Prison Blues,” I have loved the man's work. Cash was a man who did it all, and did it well. Rockabilly to country, blues to gospel. It was perhaps his gospel tracks that brought out teh true heart and soul of Cash more than any other genre.
Ultimate Gospel is the perfect title for this compilation of tracks from various stages of Johnny’s career, including a pair of songs from Cash’s ABC TV variety show, “Here Was a Man,” and the duet with Rev. Billy Graham, “The Preacher Said “Jesus Said.”
Anyone who saw the film Walk the Line will recognize “I Was There When it Happened,” the gospel track Cash, Luther Perkins and Marshall Grant used to audition for Sam Phillips at Sun Records, released in 1957.
There are 24 tracks here, including Johnny’s version of the Stanley Brothers’ “Oh Come Angel Band,” classic hymns “Amazing Grace” and “How Great Thou Art” and the spiritual “Children Go Where I Send Thee.” “Far Side Banks of Jordan,” a duet with June Carter Cash, is passionate and as compelling as the day it was recorded. But to me,. the centerpiece of the record is the early seventies hit “Daddy Sang Bass,” one of my favorites.
Ultimate Gospel is a great retrospective look at the spiritual side of Johnny Cash. A true gem.
-Michael Buffalo Smith