By James Calemine
Originally released on Columbia Records in April 1974, Ragged Old Flag consists of twelve original Johnny Cash compositions.
In the liner notes, Cash revealed, “I got so excited writing the songs in this album that you’d think I just started in the music business. It’s something I always wanted to do, write an album of all my own songs and for some reason, I just never got around to it.”
Later Cash explained, “There was one of them, ‘Ragged Old Flag’, that I didn’t even have any control over. It came out faster than I could write it down. On the other eleven songs, we went into the studio with the Tennessee Three, Carl Perkins, Larry McCoy, Ray Edenton, and I talked The Oak Ridge Boys into coming and singing on a couple of them. No wild, weird sounds, no extra icing, I recorded them the way I felt about them.”
Even though spiritual tunes “Pie In The Sky”, “Good Morning Friend”, and “What On Earth (Will You Do For Heaven’s Sake)” contribute a gospel flavor to the album, Cash never strays from his sharp-edged style including an ornery “While I Got It On My Mind”.
These earthy compositions portray everyday American struggles such as pollution in “Don’t Go Near the Water”, unemployment in “I’m A Worried Man”, a truck-driving anthem “All I Do Is Drive”, and factory working songs “Southern Comfort” and “King Of The Hill”.
On Ragged Old Flag, Johnny Cash sings for every hardworking American——he sings for us all.