Personal File, the first new material released since Cash’s death, is two discs’ worth of unreleased tracks, mostly acoustic, dating as far back as the early 1970s. The story, which sounds like a legend so is probably true, is that Cash recorded them in his home studio and locked them in his vault. They were recorded ostensibly for his own pleasure or at least for family posterity, not necessarily for public consumption. They sound like he’s talking not to himself, but to an audience. All in all, the release feels like a scrapbook of sorts: half entertainment, half autobiography in song.These 49 songs reveal depths about Cash, although at times they seem almost too personal, as if they actually were never intended for a public audience. The first disc contains secular material: love songs and tour songs and covers and country laments. The second disc is entirely spiritual, including two back-to-back songs about Mary Magdalene– “If Jesus Ever Loved a Woman” could be a Da Vinci Code tie-in. Given the solitary nature of the recording, this second disc sounds like a form of prayer and praise, as if the Man in Black is talking directly to the Man Upstairs. For Cash singing these songs became a form of worship, which makes this second disc undeniably moving.
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