Unchained: The Man In Black's Late-Life Comeback

The Resurrection of Johnny Cash: Hurt, Redemption, and American Recordings By Graeme Thomson 254 pp., $19.95, Jawbone Press

In 1993, Johnny Cash may have been a country-music icon, but for all intents and purposes, he was also one in need of some serious restoration. Two decades removed from his last chart hit and three from his prime, the Man in Black was reduced to putting out a string of half-hearted, commercially unsuccessful records and playing small venues with an unwieldy and archaic "jamboree" stage show while awash (to varying degrees) in substance abuse, self-doubt, and religious fervor.

Cut to a year later after the release of American Recordings and suddenly, Cash is hot... really hot. The sparse, dark record has made him a hipster's darling as stars from music and Hollywood flock to his shows at trendy spots like The Viper Room and a SXSW showcase. He was even hailed as something of an OG, a guy who - at least on record - "shot a man in Reno just to watch him die."

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero