The Essential Johnny Cash
From the start, Cash’s grave baritone implied struggle and resolve, lending gravity to whatever he attempted. “I Walk the Line” and “Ring of Fire” touch the extremes of devotion and temptation; “Man in Black” and “Song of the Patriot” express America’s disappointment and promise. As his career progressed, Cash strived to cross boundaries between genres and age groups, turning Bob Dylan tunes like “It Ain’t Me Babe” into unlikely country hits and teaming up with U2 for 1993’s “The Wanderer.” The tracks in this anthology capture his abiding faith (“Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”), moral courage (“The Ballad of Ira Hayes”), and folksy humor (“Jackson,” “A Boy Named Sue”). This well-selected anthology does right by the Man in Black’s memory.