The Man in Black Is Back

One of the great late-career comeback stories is the resurgence of Johnny Cash that began in 1994, when he made an unexpected return to form with “American Recordings,” his 81st album. A decade earlier, the Man in Black had fallen out of favor in Nashville. His status as a country music legend — the singer-songwriter known for number one hits like “Ring of Fire” and “Folsom Prison Blues” — no longer seemed to matter. By 1984, he was reduced to putting out a lame novelty single called “The Chicken in Black,” about his brain being transplanted into a chicken.

But he hadn’t completely lost it, as evidenced by this week’s release of “Out Among the Stars,” a posthumous album of recordings that Columbia Records shelved in the early ’80s. This isn’t Johnny Cash at his peak — for that you can go all the way back to his 1956 hit “I Walk the Line,” then fast-forward to “American IV: The Man Comes Around,” which came out just a year before his death in 2003. Still, the new album contains some vintage Cash, starting with the no-nonsense single “She Used to Love Me a Lot,” a haunting ballad that benefits from a video by Australian filmmaker John Hillcoat (director of “The Road”) and a B-side remix by Elvis Costello. —John Birmingham

Tags: music

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