When I Stop Dreaming
Posted in Country,Honey,Post-War on 05.19.06

Let me be clear: I don’t like Johnny Cash’s American recordings. I think there are a few good songs, maybe an EP of good material scattered across the four main albums (i haven’t really listened to the box set of unreleased stuff) but most of it is really tired and fluff. Personal File (to be released this coming Tuesday) is different. Recorded by Cash between 1973-1980 as demos/ideas for future recordings Personal File is a small selection of the thousands of songs found after his death. One disc is secular, on gospel and I think they are pretty even in quality. There are some clunkers – his take on Saginaw, Michigan is really limp as is his take on the traditional In The Sweet Bye and Bye which should have been an easy home run. My favorite track is a cover of a Louvin Brothers song “When I Stop Dreaming,” Johnny explains when he first heard this song and how he got to eventually meet and play with the Brothers. It’s a wonderful little moment and prelude to a perfect take on the song.

Johnny Cash – When I Stop Dreaming


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By David Federman on 05.19.06 8:43 am

I usually don’t care when other people think differently from me. But you are so casually dismissive of Johnny Cash’s American recordings that I think an objection needs to be raised. You remind me of people who thought Billie Holliday’s later recordings were only evidence of tragic decline and waste. I wish I could make you hear Cash’s last recordings as I do, and as the Grammy givers did–several times. All I can do is to beg you to give these treasures a second try. Start with “Keep the Lower Lights Burning” on “Unearthed.” It is, to my ears, one of the greatest glories of Cash’s long career. But it keeps good and crowded company in all those American albums.

By Kitty Laverne on 05.19.06 2:29 pm

It’s “When I Stop Dreaming,” as in the future tense (or whatever), as in, “that’s when I’ll stop loving you.” Interesting to hear a differing opinion on the American body of work–something to think about.

By john on 05.19.06 6:11 pm

thanks for that. I absolutely love the Louvin Brothers and think that perhaps the faces of Charlie and Ira should be added with Willie, Johnny and the rest to the country Mt. Rushmore. We’ve actually done a couple of postings on the Louvins at the driftwood singers site, which might be of interest to fans.


By peter patnaik on 05.19.06 7:12 pm

Hey, awesome blog.

I didn’t mean that i didn’t like the American recordings because Cash’s voice was tired, but that the song choices (i won’t back down, bridge over trouble water) and ones that border on self parody (delia’s gone, personal jesus). i mean they aren’t as bad as say Neil Diamond’s 12 songs or anything. but they feel really limp and really could be weeded down to an ep/album.

By Jack on 05.21.06 5:37 pm

I agree with Peter on this one. The choice of songs on ‘American Recordings’ is very poor. Even Cash’s great voice can’t personalise the songs sufficiently to make them anything other than slightly-out-of-the-ordinary covers. It’s the tone and timbre of the unique voice which holds interest, not the songs thenselves. Including more ‘roots’ material [such as ‘When I Stop Dreaming’] could have resulted in a great legacy recording.

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