Lucy Clark & Johnny Cash

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ASSOCIATED PRESS Johnny Cash and his wife, June Carter Cash, on stage at New York’s Radio City Music Hall in 1985.

BY JAY LUSTIG

STAR-LEDGER STAFF

“For once, Johnny Cash didn’t need a tour bus to get to a gig. He could sleep in his own bed, and walk.

The legendary singer invested $250,000 in Asbury Park’s Berkeley-Carteret Hotel in the mid-’80s, and kept a suite of rooms there until 1992. A new CD, “The Great Lost Performance,” documents the July 28, 1990 concert he presented at the nearby Paramount Theatre, on the Asbury boardwalk.

“Good night, Asbury Park,” he says at the end of the concert. “I’ll see you at church tomorrow.”

Cash’s deep, resonant voice is in good shape throughout the show, and he’s in a talkative mood, reflecting on his past, and the country, rock and gospel songs that brought him fame. Throughout the recording, the sound is crystal clear.

Album co-producer Clark Enslin, a former New Jerseyan who now lives in Florida, was unable to get the concert album released in Cash’s lifetime. But he says Cash — who died in 2003 — asked him several times to keep trying. “The Great Lost Recording” came out on July 24, on the Universal label.

There was not much interest in Cash, as a recording artist, in the early ’90s. But spurred partly by his late-in-life hit “Hurt,” and partly by the popular 2005 biopic, “Walk the Line,” the CD-buying public is more fascinated by him than ever.

Counting both reissues and collections of new material, this is the 16th Cash album to be released posthumously.

Songs captured on the CD include classics such as “Ring of Fire,” “I Walk the Line” and “Folsom Prison Blues,” as well as the concert debut of “What Is Man.” Perhaps the most notable track, though, is Cash’s only recording of the joyous southern-gospel tune, “A Wonderful Time Up There,” whose hard-driving beat is reminiscent of one of his signature songs, “Get Rhythm.”

Cash’s longtime collaborator, drummer W.S. Holland, anchors the band, which features his son, John Carter Cash, on guitar and vocals. (John Carter Cash also serves as the album’s executive producer.) Cash’s wife, June Carter Cash, duets on “Jackson” and “The Wreck of Old ’97,” and June’s sisters Anita Carter and Helen Carter Jones sing backing vocals.

A singer who is far less familiar to Cash fans, Lucy Clark, duets on “What Is Man,” and contributes harmonies to the sweet, nostalgic “Forty Shades of Green.” Clark, who grew up in Belleville and now lives in Neshanic, was working with guitarist Les Paul at the time, and both of them were planning to perform with Cash that night.

Paul became sick and couldn’t make the trip down the Parkway from his Mahwah home. “I don’t blame him,” Cash said during the show, in a segment that didn’t make the album, but was provided to The Star-Ledger by Enslin. “If I turned 75 last month, I wouldn’t go out this late anyway.”

Interviewed via e-mail from Europe, where she is touring, Clark says she was not a big fan of Cash’s prior to the show “because I really hadn’t heard much of his stuff. It’s so funny, most people my age will say, ‘I was introduced to Johnny Cash’s music at a young age, because my parents were really into him.’ Not the case for me. My father’s favorites were Perry Como.

“My memories of the show are wonderful. (Cash’s) presence in the room was enormous — what a nice, humble man.”

Enslin, also interviewed by e-mail, says that at the time of the show, “Johnny was very down about the record companies and how things were going in the music business in general. I asked Johnny when was he the happiest, and he thought about it and said, ‘Back in the Sun Records days, when I first started.’ He went on to say how he had a standup bass and a few musicians, and it was great.”

As a result, they decided to use a small band at the show, with Steve Logan playing standup bass. read more 

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