Many notable artists shuffle off this mortal coil, only to endure the usual posthumous "previously unheard release" cash-in attempts. The superlative Personal File is far from that. File is a collection of voice-and-guitar-alone performances from 1973 to 1976 and the early '80s found in storage at the House of Cash studio in Hendersonville, Tennessee. These are not truncated rehearsal versions or shoulda-stayed-in-the-vault outtakes. Cash's resolute, compassionate baritone is uniformly superb throughout. His picking is minimal but precise and heartfelt. The songs hail from many sources: late-19th- and early-20th-century traditional songs like "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen;" the Carter Family-style "The Winding Stream;" old country hits like Johnny Horton's "When It's Springtime in Alaska;" contemporary writers such as John Prine and Rodney Crowell; plus Cash originals both secular and sacred. Nonbelievers shouldn't be put off by Cash's songs of praise: They are not of the "be this way or burn in hell" variety. "No Earthly Good" skewers the piously self-righteous: Gospel ain't gospel until it is spread/But how can you share it where you've got your head? Forget da Vinci's code -- the astounding Personal File is Cash's Holy Grail.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.