Johnny Cash Is Coming to Town/Boom Chicka Boom
This CD two-fer features two of Johnny Cash's best recordings from his Mercury period. Given the quality of both albums, Cash's tenure with the label, generally dismissed by critics, deserves to be reexamined (to put it mildly). Johnny Cash Is Coming to Town is a unique album in that it was his debut for the label in 1986 and featured his road band and his wife, June, her sisters Helen and Anita, and her daughter Carlene on backing vocals along with Waylon Jennings and Cash's daughter, Cindy Cash-Stuart (as well as her husband Marty). Produced by Cowboy Jack Clement, who had worked with Cash on tunes as great as "Ballad of a Teenage Queen" and "Ring of Fire," the feel was live, reckless, and full of life. Elvis Costello contributed a track and Guy Clark two, while Cash covered — nearly definitively — Merle Travis' classic "Sixteen Tons" and contributed two solid songs of his own. Boom Chicka Boom, from 1989, is a lighter but no less satisfying affair produced by Bob Moore with a band of studio greats, including Reggie Young, Hargus Robins, and Roy Huskey, Jr. There are three Cash originals here, along with Elvis Costello's "Hidden Shame" (written especially for Cash), a cover — and a damn fine one — of Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle," and the old gospel nugget "Family Bible" that is stirring because Cash's mom appears in duet with him. The remastering job is superb and the package has full session information and liners by Cash and John Lomax III.