Album Review: Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash - 16 Biggest Hits

A review of a collection of hits by one of music's most formidable forces

Johnny Cash and June Carter
Johnny Cash and June Carter. Google Images/closerweekly.com

The music industry has come to know many a successful duo, but no other pair has made an impact quite like Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. They may not have been the world's best singers, but what they offered was greater than plain talent: they had pure enthusiasm and soul, which resulted in songs that are fun-loving, rich with emotion, eloquent, heartfelt, and just plain enjoyable. In 16 Biggest Hits, their spirit is infused in every song, and the love they had for one another shines through whether they're singing about love or not.

Album Review

June Carter wasn't the greatest singer in her musical family; Cash often hit a sour note. But when the two of them sang together, it was perfection. You can hear how much they loved each other in every turn of phrase. I've heard the song "Jackson" sung by other couples, and any time I hear it sung by someone else, I realize how mean-spirited the lyrics actually are. When Cash and Carter sing it, they're still a couple in the midst of that "fever hotter than a pepper sprout."

The Johnny Cash bio pic "Walk the Line" chronicles the tale of two soulmates coming together despite much adversity, and 16 Biggest Hits does much of the same. It compiles some of the greatest Cash/Carter duets, like "Jackson" and "It Ain't Me, Babe."

This collection of duets includes mostly covers of well-known pop and country tracks recorded in the '60s and '70s, as well as two originals: "Oh, What a Good Thing We Had" and "'Cause I Love You." There are also a couple of songs on this album that I hadn't heard before, which wasn't much of a surprise.

If there's ever been a country artist with a seemingly endless catalog, it's definitely Cash. You may think you've heard all of his work, but there's always something new to discover.

One new track that blew me away is the couple's beautiful take on the Kris Kristofferson masterpiece, "Help Me Make it Through the Night," which easily became my favorite version of the song, and their cover of Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me, Babe" is fantastic.

There are also a few gospel pieces, like "Far Side Banks of Jordan."

It's hard to put 50 years of music onto one disc, and this album hardly scratches the surface of "essential" Carter/Cash duets. Still, it's an easy, enjoyable listen. For listeners who are new to Cash's music, 16 Biggest Hits is an excellent place to start. Diehard fans may want to consider picking up a copy solely based on acquiring the most complete collection of Cash works possible.

Track List:

  1. It Ain't Me, Babe
  2. Jackson
  3. Long-Legged Guitar Pickin' Man
  4. Oh, What a Good Thing We Had
  5. Darlin' Companion
  6. If I Were a Carpenter
  7. 'Cause I Love You
  8. The Loving Gift
  9. Help Me Make It Through the Night
  10. The Pine Tree
  11. No Need to Worry
  12. Old Time Feeling
  13. One Way Rider
  14. Brand New Dance
  15. Far Side Banks of Jordan
  16. It Takes One to Know Me

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