Compared to rock, country has never been a high priority for bootleggers. Nonetheless, some high-quality country bootlegs will surface now and then. In the 1990s, you couldn't have asked for a more rewarding country bootleg than The Beast in Me, which boasts superb sound quality and finds Johnny Cash performing at the Rocky Gap Festival in Cumberland, MD on August 25, 1990. (Others at that festival included Mary Chapin Carpenter and members of the Carter Family). Cash was 58 at the time, and the country veteran hadn't had a major hit since the 1970s. But his voice had held up well, and seeing him live was still a joy. Though few surprises occur during Cash's set, he never fails to sound inspired on classic 1950s and 1960s hits that range from "I Walk the Line," "Get Rhythm," and "Folsom Prison Blues" to "Ring of Fire," "Tennessee Flat Top Box," and "Sunday Morning Coming Down." Cash had written many of these songs more than 30 years earlier, and he still sang them with a lot of conviction. One could nit-pick about the absence of "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" and "A Boy Named Sue," but why nit-pick when the CD has so much going for it? Though it falls short of essential, The Beast in Me illustrates the durability of Cash's songs and is easily recommended to his fans.
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