Sonically superb Hybrid SACD presents Cash's music in true-to-the-original mono
Originally released in 1964 on Columbia, produced by fellow Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Don Law, and featuring note-for-note re-recordings of several staples Johnny Cash made for Sun Records — including the title track, "Hey Porter," and "Big River" — as well as several new originals, I Walk the Line cemented the singer's place as the leading country artist of the era. Indeed, as the original liner notes state, "I Walk the Line offers Johnny Cash, renowned storyteller-in-song, at his creative and performing best."
Now, for the first time in more than five decades, you can experience it in true-to-the-source mono courtesy of Mobile Fidelity's meticulously restored reissue. Mastered from the original mono master tapes and limited to 2,500 numbered copies, the audiophile label's hyper-clear disc broadcasts the inimitable sonics of the Man in Black's cut-from-bedrock baritone, earnest acoustic strumming, and hand-in-glove band with utmost clarity, directness, and realism.
Much has been rightly made about the sparse, deceivingly simple boom-chicka-boom sound of Cash's righthand men, otherwise known as the Tennessee Three: bassist Marshall Grant, guitarist Luther Perkins, and drummer W.S. "Fluke" Holland. On this collectible edition of I Walk the Line, the trio's steady, fundamental rhythms and fresh, driving beats resonate with a presence, solidity, and immediacy unavailable on any other Cash recording. Such are the advantages associated with going back to mono, which gets right to the core of the rough-and-tumble country tenor of songs such as "Folsom Prison Blues" and "I Walk the Line."
There's a profound release of more textures, embedded details, and lively cohesiveness, with the group enmeshed with rather than separated from Cash's vocals. Key instrumental and vocal contributions from the likes of the Carter Family, steel guitarist Don Helms, pianist Floyd Cramer, and trumpeters Bill McElhiney and Karl Garvin (the same duo who played the signature Mexican-inspired brass refrain on "Ring of Fire") also come to the fore, no longer buried or artificially panned in the false stereo mix. Mobile Fidelity's I Walk the Line epitomizes the classic Cash sound and approach, through and through.