Johnny Cash Collection, New Kasey Chambers CD Out

The first of what will be many Johnny Cash releases in honor of his 70th birthday leads new country albums this week. Also out are the second work by the acclaimed Australian singer Kasey Chambers , Freddy Fender ’s Spanish album and new bluegrass releases from Ralph Stanley II, James King and others.

Cash turns 70 on Feb. 26. A tribute album is on tap for later this year, and reissues will make available on CD the best of his catalog. The Essential Johnny Cash (Legacy) is a two-disc package with 36 cuts. Included are duets such as “Girl From the North Country” with Bob Dylan, “The Wanderer” with U2, “The Night Hank Williams Came to Town” with Waylon Jennings and “Song of the Patriot” with the late Marty Robbins . June Carter Cash duets with her husband on “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” “Jackson,” and “If I Were a Carpenter.” She also joins Cash and the Carter Family on “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord.”

Chambers’ first U.S. release, “The Captain,” in 2000 drew considerable critical attention and country observers are wondering if her new album will break through to a larger U.S. following. Her new Barricades & Brickwalls (Warner Bros.) includes original Chambers material with the exception of Gram Parsons’ “Still Feeling Blue.” Lucinda Williams , Buddy Miller , Matthew Ryan, Paul Kelly and The Living End make guest appearances on the set.

Fender reaches back for his birth name of Baldemar Huerta for his new album La Musica de Baldemar Huerta (Back Porch). The CD is a collection of Spanish language Tejano, conjunto and Tex-Mex songs from his youth in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. Two bonus tracks are newly recorded English language versions of two of his country hits, “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” and “Secret Love.”

Stanley II is joined on his new Stanley Blues (Rebel) album by his storied father on two songs –- “Ship Gone Astray” and “Four Horsemen.” Terry Eldredge, a longtime Osborne Brothers picker and now a member of Larry Cordle’s Lonesome Standard Time and the famous group The Sidemen from Nashville’s Station Inn, has recovered sufficiently from an April car wreck to sing on the title song, “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town” and “Tennessee Truck Driving Man.”

The bluegrass supergroup Longview comes together sporadically to play live and record CDs. Their new release is Lessons in Stone (Rebel). The group includes Dudley Connell, Glen Duncan, James King, Joe Mullins, Don Rigsby and Marshall Wilborn.

King also releases his new solo album Thirty Years of Farming (Rounder). King was working in a carpet store in Galax, Va., when Rounder Records signed him in 1992. He has since been named the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) Emerging Artist of the Year and is sometimes mentioned as having one of the finest mountain soul voices in bluegrass.

IBMA fiddler of the year for 2001 Michael Cleveland makes his solo debut with Flame Keeper (Rounder). Cleveland gained prominence as fiddler for Rhonda Vincent & The Rage.

Veteran bluegrass performers Norman and Nancy Blake are joined by Peter Ostroushko on the new release Meeting on Southern Soil (Red House). All three contribute vocals, and Norman Blake plays guitar and mandolin, Ostroushko is heard on mandolin, mandola and fiddle, and Nancy Blake plays cello.

Veteran bluegrass group the Bailey Brothers & the Happy Valley Boys are represented by the reissue album Take Me Back to Happy Valley (Rounder). Recorded in 1974 in Knoxville, Tenn., the album was originally released in 1975 on Rounder.