When Johnny Cash died in September 2003, he was in the midst of a career renaissance that had begun nearly a decade earlier, when he recorded a series of albums with the producer Rick Rubin. The extraordinary popularity of those albums helps explain the release of Out Among The Stars, a new album consisting of songs from “lost” recording sessions that took place mostly in 1984. Yet these sessions, in tone and sound, are nearly the opposite of the pared-down records in the earlier series.
Muscle Shoals tells the story of how a tiny Alabama town on the Tennessee River became the site of some of the best rock and soul music recordings of the 1960s and 1970s. Along with Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin, Etta James, the Rolling Stones, and Paul Simon recorded some of their best-known songs in Muscle Shoals. It’s where Percy Sledge sang “When a Man Loves a Woman,” where the Staple Singers did “I’ll Take You There.”
I was hired as an intern at The New York Review during my last month as an undergraduate, when the previous intern was abruptly deported. After interviewing at the old office on 56th and Broadway, I started work during the first week in our light-filled place on Hudson Street, in the spring of 2008. Bob’s desk, for the only time in my tenure, had only two or three hundred pieces of paper on it.