Johnny Cash
Bootleg, Volume 2: From Memphis to Hollywood

Bootleg, Volume 2: From Memphis to Hollywood
takes you back to the ’50s and ’60s, when Cash lived in the studio. During these two decades, he released 20 studio albums producing plenty of B-sides, demos, unreleased songs, and alternative takes filling two CDs—1950s and 1960s—with 57 songs, including 16 never-heard recordings.

The first disc showcases a young, impressionable Cash recording gospel (“Belshazzar”), rockabilly (“You’re My Baby”—later made famous by Roy Orbison), heartbroken blues (“When I Think of You”), and country (“Brakeman’s Blues”—a Jimmie Rodgers cover) in a style that demonstrates great empathy for the genre rather than a reliance on his own charismatic persona—a talent he demonstrated in later recordings, particularly hisAmericanalbums. The 1960s disc oozes with Cash’s room-filling, baritone swagger particularly on the hilarious “Foolish Questions,” the poignant “Five Minutes to Live,” the self-deprecating “The Losing Kind” and the slow, prison ballad “Send a Picture of Mother.”

The boom-chick-a-boom rhythm associated with Cash, guitarist Luther Perkins, and bassist Marshall Grant, is on parade throughout both discs and the musical transitions Cash endures. Production gets slicker on the second disc thanks to Columbia Records and producer Don Law. But the first one—loaded with 14 demos—has a garage-recording charm, complete with Sun Studio and Sam Phillips’ signature reverb. The 1950s disc starts with a 15-minute segment from a KWEM radio program—complete with Cash selling home improvement goods—that aired in May 1955.

While not nearly as accessible as other posthumous hit-laden collections,Bootleg, Volume 2: From Memphis to Hollywoodcaptures a historically important musical and transformation of a young Cash from his frenetically ragged roots to one of American music’s most important lyrical philosophers.