Produced by Emmylou Harris’ studio partner Brian Ahern, 1979’s Silver updates Johnny Cash’s sound for the mainstream country market without losing sight of its traditional roots. The attempt largely succeeds thanks to good song choices and the Man in Black’s unmistakable vocal presence. The project is helped by a diverse cast of players, including everyone from Cash’s original bassist Marshall Grant to young Nashville hotshots like Ricky Skaggs and Rodney Crowell. Much of the material is grounded in folk and old-time country sources, letting Cash radiate a battle-scarred heroism and outlaw suavity that rises above the Nashville conventions of the era. Jean Ritchie’s coal country lament “The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore” and Stan Jones’ Western classic “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky” capture a moody sense of melodrama that harkens back to Johnny’s ‘60s-era folk projects. From the downhearted yearning of “Lonesome to the Bone” to the rascally swagger of “Cocaine Blues” and the wry self-reflection of “I’ll Say It’s True” (featuring harmonies by George Jones), there are plenty of standouts here.
The L & N Don't Stop Here Anymore
Lonesome to the Bone
I'll Say It's True (with George Jones)
(Ghost) Riders In the Sky
West Canterbury Subdivision Blues
Lately I Been Leanin' Toward the Blues
I'm Gonna Sit On the Porch and Pick On My Old Guitar