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The Greatest: Country Classics

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Album Review

As part of Columbia/Legacy's ongoing celebration of Johnny Cash's 80th Birthday in 2012, the label assembled a series of compilations under the rubric "The Greatest." This 14-track collection functions as a companion of sorts to his daughter Rosanne's 2009 album The List, which itself was based on a list of classic country songs Johnny assembled for his daughter back in 1973. Here, we have Johnny's versions of country standards, including such stalwarts as "Wildwood Flower," "I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "Delia's Gone," and "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky." Some may carp that the definition of "Country Classics" may not cover such songs as 1978's "The Gambler," which Cash cut just weeks before Kenny Rogers, but its inclusion goes a long way in illustrating what an adept interpreter Cash was. He had a way of shaping familiar songs to fit his style — and when he dipped his toe into traditional honky tonk, as he does on the appropriately named "Honky Tonk Girl," he did so to his signature two-step beat — without ever altering the songs beyond recognition, and this compilation goes a long way in showcasing this gift.

Biography

Born: 26 February 1932 in Kingsland, AR

Genre: Country

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Johnny Cash was one of the most imposing and influential figures in post-World War II country music. With his deep, resonant baritone and spare percussive guitar, he had a basic, distinctive sound. Cash didn't sound like Nashville, nor did he sound like honky tonk or rock & roll. He created his own subgenre, falling halfway between the blunt emotional honesty of folk, the rebelliousness of rock & roll, and the world-weariness of country. Cash's career coincided with the birth of rock &...
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