Since the death of Johnny Cash in 2003, there has been no shortage of vintage material available for fans, as the Cash camp seems quite committed to preserving his legacy. The latest installment of the “Bootleg” series, Bootleg, Vol. IV—The Soul of Truth is a 51-track, 2-disc set that attempts to gather all of Cash’s gospel music into one collection.
Johnny Cash history buffs know that the Man in Black always loved gospel music; he not only grew up listening to it on the radio, but he initially started out attempting to be a gospel singer (until Sam Phillips helped steer him another direction). Throughout his career, even in his dark days, his love for gospel prevailed. One has to believe that this bootleg collection, among the others in the series, would have carried the most personal meaning for him if he were still with us.
While there are understandably some previously released tracks on this collection, there are also quite a few rarely heard tracks in here, as well. A predictable number of the gospel tracks are collaborations with June Carter and/or the Carter family, such as “Over the Next Hill (We’ll Be Home),” “He’s Alive,” and “I’m a Newborn Man”; however, there are some other collaborations as well, such as with Jessi Colter (“The Old Rugged Cross”), Rodney Crowell (“He Touched Me”) and even his daughters Cindi and Rosanne Cash (on “Lay Me Down in Dixie” and “When He Comes”, respectively).
For deep-track Cash fans, the entire Bootleg series is worth getting hold of. Vol. 1 –Personal File contains all-unreleased tracks recorded by Cash in his home studio in Hendersonville. Vol. 2—From Memphis to Hollywood serves as a musical chronicle of Cash’s journey to stardom, beginning with his very first radio performance with the Tennessee Two. And Vol. 3—Live Around the World gathers some of Cash’s best live performances, including 39 tracks (out of 53) that were previously unreleased.
But of the entire series, Bootleg Vol. IV is probably the most precious, because these rare cuts are the ones that were likely closest to the heart of the man. For this reason, it belongs in the collection of any true fan of the Man in Black.