Undiscovered: Five Johnny Cash Hidden Gems

February 26th marks what would have been his 90th birthday for music legend Johnny Cash. He’s a famed country artist known for the sorrow and swagger carried throughout his music. He gained an outlaw image throughout his life by regularly performing prison concerts. His most infamous show was at Folsom Prison; the album that was recorded there was released in 1968.

While Cash’s work was often blues-influenced, they have a country feel. Being inducted into Country Music, Rock and Roll, and Gospel Music Halls of Fame, Cash left behind a great legacy. Here are five hidden gems from his discography that might be new to you.

1. “Country Boy” (1957)

Coming from his debut album, With His Hot and Blue Guitar, Cash seemingly sings this song to a younger version of himself. The track has some nostalgia to it, with Cash singing a tune about a young boy who loves nothing more than playing his guitar and how Cash yearns to swap places with the boy. The song appears on Cash’s debut album alongside well-known others such as “I Walk The Line” and “Folsom Prison Blues.”

“There’s a lot of life in you / Country boy, you lucky thing / Country boy, I wish I was you.”

2. “Tennessee Flat-Top Box” (1961)

Like the previous song, this track is about a young boy aspiring to become a country singer. The only thing this boy knows to do is play that flat-top box (his guitar y’all). The tune in “Tennessee Flat-Top Box” makes you want to tap your toes and snap your fingers. A couple of decades later, in 1987, Cash’s daughter Roseanna covered this song and managed to score a No. 1 on the Billboard country chart, beating her father’s original placement at spot number 11.

“Well, he couldn’t ride, and wrangle / And he never cared to make a dime / But give him his guitar, and he’d be happy all the time.”

3. “Understand Your Man” (1964)

This song held the top spot on the Billboard country chart for six weeks during its release. It was also his last known song to have performed in front of a live audience in 2003. Cash sings about a notably tired man who wants to walk away from it all – specifically his wife. As the song goes, the man has allegedly done his part in the relationship, but his wife has yet to do her part, so now he must leave.

“I’ll be gone as a wild goose in winter / Then you’ll understand your man (meditate on it).”

4. “Flesh and Blood” (1970)

Without a doubt, this is a love song written and sung by Cash dedicated to his wife, June. He sings about the beauty of nature in a way that romanticizes it. However, nothing else compares to the beauty and love of a human partner. “Mother Nature is quite a Lady /But you’re the one for me,” Cash sings. “Flesh and Blood” also topped Billboard‘s country chart.

“Flesh and blood need flesh and blood / And you’re the one I need.”

5. “I’d Rather Have You” (1987)

Cash sings this love song in his well-known deep and reassuring voice. The guitar rhythm chugs the song along. It appears on the LP Johnny Cash is Coming to Town, with his hit song” The Night Hank Williams Came to Town (featuring Waylon Jennings).” Cash sure can put together a heartful love song for a man who has plenty of sorrowful melodies.

“Just the two of us alone will do / I’d rather have you.”

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