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Johnny Cash

Love God Murder – 2000 (Sony Legacy)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

"Love God Murder" culls thematically appropriate material from Johnny Cash's work at the Sun, Columbia and American labels - recordings from his stint at Mercury are conspicuously absent. Cash himself chose songs ranging from trademark hits la "I Walk The Line" "Don't Take Your Guns To Town" and "Ring Of Fire" to such lesser known gems as the harrowing "Delia's Gone" and the Waylonesque "While I've Got it On My Mind." Rarity fans are well served by the inclusion of three tracks previously unavailable in America: the heckling honker "My Old Faded Rose," the eerily erotic "I Tremble For You" and the homicidal humor of "The Sound Of Laughter."

The "Love" and "Murder" discs alone are worthwhile; they writhe with tenderness, passion and rueful humor. However, the sacred compilation "God" is unusually entertaining and affecting, and shouldn't be overlooked. Uptempo numbers "It Was Jesus" and "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" are belted with a youthful vigor and camp-meeting zeal that his Sun label mate Jerry Lee Lewis would admire. The slower tunes are uttered with the rumbling awe of a penitent still shaking from the aftermath of his sin and salvation.

Whether his efforts are supported by the Carter Sister's haunting harmonies, the proto-rockabilly of the Tennessee Three or by a single strumming guitar, Cash testifies with conviction and thought-provoking humanity. A genuine artistic statement, this 3-disc, 48-song retrospective offers far more insight to Cash's lengthy career than the many hits collections glutting store-racks and record club catalogs.