September 24, 1979 12:00 PM

Johnny Cash

Few popular singers have sustained topflight careers over 25 years. You can name Crosby and Sinatra, but then you have to start struggling. Cash recorded Hey Porter in 1955, I Walk the Line in 1956 and, allowing for a dry spell or two, has been one of country music’s mainstays right up to his current hit, (Ghost) Riders in the Sky, which is, happily, on this LP. During his TV star-pitchman phase in the early ’70s, Cash’s music became erratic; as the surprisingly candid liner notes, he spread himself too thin. More recently, though, Johnny has, if anything, gotten better. Last year’s all-but-flawless Gone Girl LP might have made a more glittering 25th-anniversary commemoration, but there is plenty of good material here. That includes Cocaine Blues—a more up-tempo version of the T.J. Arnall tune Cash has long sung—and Cash’s own Lonesome to the Bone, I’ll Say It’s True (nicely duetted with George Jones) and I’m Gonna Sit on the Porch and Pick on My Old Guitar.

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