Just as Johnny Cash's Christian faith was always a major part of his life, gospel was a huge aspect of his musical makeup. That fact is handily borne out on the comprehensive two-disc collection THE GOSPEL MUSIC OF JOHNNY CASH. This anthology encompasses a number of eras and musical settings, and sports an agreeably broad definition of “gospel music.” Everything from Kris Kristofferson's sinner's lament, “Why Me,” to Cash's own sociopolitical protest anthem, “The Man in Black,” and the traditional hymn “The Old Rugged Cross” turns up here.
The unshakable gravitas inherent in Cash's deep, thick tones, and his earnest-but-never-precious delivery make his musical statements of faith and spirituality some of the most convincing in all of country gospel. Nobody's better at repentance and salvation than an old sinner, after all, and Cash's versions of songs like Billy Joe Shaver's “I'm Just An Old Chunk Of Coal” and the Kristofferson tune bear the unmistakable mark of someone who's wandered down the wrong path and then been delivered from his own demons by the gift of faith. In the end, that's what THE GOSPEL MUSIC OF JOHNNY CASH is all about.