"When I stop dreaming, that's when I'll stop loving you."
That's pretty intense, huh? I thought so. I think I remember trying to say something to this effect to my ex-girlfriend (every guy knows that it always sounds better in our heads, and never comes out the way we intended. It probably came out like, "I love you more when you're asleep" or something...). Too bad she stopped dreaming first... when I killed her... in my head.
As I sit here at my desk with a copy of the Johnny Cash album "Personal File" and a cold beer, I can't help but wonder if Cash was thinking of June Carter-Cash when he sang this wonderful tune. I've always been more of a "Delia's Gone" type Cash fan... the type that enjoys listening to how he kills a trifling' bitch, rather than how his woman brings him Iced Tea, but I'm rocking in my chair right now, and I can't stop. I wish I had a porch... and a banjo... maybe some wheat straw to chew...
The "Personal File" of Johnny Cash is just that; an intimate portrayal of some of his favorite hymns, hits, poems, and covers mixed in with some of his little known or unheard numbers. Most of the first disc and part of the second were recorded in 1973 for no one but Johnny himself, and stored in his private vault. The rest of the songs were recorded in between 1973 and 1982 and stashed in said vault, all placed in boxes marked "Personal File". The album itself actually listens like "Storytime with Uncle Johnny" more than any of the American Recordings released in the last decade or so, if not merely due to the fact all of the songs are stripped down to Johnny and an acoustic. Scattered throughout the 49 track, double-disc set are brief introductions explaining the personal significance of certain songs and adding more to the "Johnny on the front porch" feeling that most longtime Cash fans adored about him. Oddly enough, one of my favorite tracks on the album is a straight up, spoken word version of the famous Robert W. Service poem "The Cremation of Sam McGee" that was repeatedly shoved down my Alaskan throat during my school-boy years... you know... back in the day. I've always loved the way Johnny could tell a story, but hearing something so familiar to me told his way brought me back a way, and made me miss home like I hadn't in a while. Sappy, yes, but the poem's nowhere near that... if you're not familiar, Google it. (I love that expression!)
I've listened to the album three times now, and I'm having a hard time finding any flaws in it. Alas, I, always enjoying the devil's advocate stance of things, did find a couple things OTHER people might find disappointing. You might call these people douche bags. I probably would if they ever bitched about the album to my face, but most people lack the ... how you say ... cojones to do this. I would say that the only thing that might pose a problem is the current market ... the younger/newer Johnny Cash fanbase. You know... the kids who first heard Johnny on the MTV Video Music Awards when his video for "Hurt" postmortemly faced Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me a River" and lost. These fans won't find any of the commercially veined tunes of the "Hurt" or "Personal Jesus" nature, but true appreciators will suck this up like Brooklyn raining Crack Rocks.
While the second disc might come off a little preachy to the non-religious/ burning-in-the-fiery-pits-of-Hades types, this compilation of unreleased gems is completely worth it. My suggestion? Get it at Best Buy. While 1/4 of your daily tips from the Coffee Cart may go to getting a piece of this glory, you'll find it cheaper than most places, but completely worth it.
* I Don't Believe You Wanted to Leave
* When It's Springtime in Alaska (It's Forty Below)
* When I Stop Dreaming
* Saginaw, Michigan
* The Cremation of Sam McGee
* My Mother Was a Lady