The Mystery of Life

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The Mystery of Life
Studio album by
ReleasedMarch 1991 (Original)
February 11, 2003 (Reissue)
RecordedSeptember 1986 - September 1990
GenreCountry, country rock, rockabilly
Length30:17 (Original)
35:01 (Reissue)
ProducerJack Clement
Johnny Cash chronology
The Man in Black 1959-1962
The Mystery of Life
Johnny Cash Country Christmas
Singles from The Mystery of Life
  1. "The Mystery of Life"
    Released: March 1991

The Mystery of Life is the 77th album by country singer Johnny Cash, released in 1991, and his last for Mercury Records. The songs featured are culled from both recent sessions and from leftovers from Cash's first Mercury session in 1986 for the album Johnny Cash is Coming to Town.

It includes new recordings of two songs already associated with him from his Sun and Columbia days, "Hey Porter" and "Wanted Man". "I'll Go Somewhere and Sing My Songs Again" is a duet with Tom T. Hall. The album's poor performance on the charts (it peaked at #70) and that of "Goin' by the Book", the only single to chart (at #69), coupled with Cash's unsteady relationship with Mercury, ensured his departure from the label following the album's release. In 2003, the album was re-released with "The Wanderer" from U2's 1993 Island Records album Zooropa as a bonus track. In 2006, "I'm an Easy Rider" and "Beans for Breakfast" were used in the soundtrack to the video game Scarface: The World Is Yours.

According to Cash's 1997 biography, Mercury only pressed 500 copies of the album, biographer Robert Hilburn in Johnny Cash: The Life (2013) dismisses this as an exaggeration on Cash's part.[1]

This was the final new studio album release to feature drummer W.S. "Fluke" Holland, who had been a member of Cash's backing group and featured on almost all of his recordings since the 1950s, as Holland would not participate in the recording sessions for the Johnny Cash Country Christmas or the recordings made for American Recordings, though he would continue to perform with Cash in concert.

Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic3/5 stars link
Robert Christgau(choice cut) link

Track listing[edit]

1."The Greatest Cowboy of Them All"Johnny Cash3:34
2."I'm an Easy Rider"Johnny Cash2:36
3."The Mystery of Life"Joe Nixon3:11
4."Hey Porter"Johnny Cash2:20
5."Beans for Breakfast"Johnny Cash3:18
6."Goin' by the Book"Butch Chester Lester3:19
7."Wanted Man"Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash2:52
8."I'll Go Somewhere and Sing My Songs Again" (duet with Tom T. Hall)Tom T. Hall3:11
9."The Hobo Song"John Prine3:32
10."Angel and the Badman"Johnny Cash2:24
11."The Wanderer" (with U2) (bonus track on later pressings)Bono, Adam Clayton, The Edge, Larry Mullen, Jr.4:44


Additional musicians[edit]

Additional personnel[edit]

  • Produced by Jack Clement
  • "The Wanderer" produced by Flood, Brian Eno and The Edge
  • Assistant producer: David R. Ferguson
  • Executive in charge of production: Harold Shedd
  • Executive producers: Claudia Mize, Reba Hancock
  • Recording engineers: David R. Ferguson (chief engineer), Richard Adler, Jack "Stack-A-Track" Grochmal, Mark Howard, J. Niles Clement, Cousin Bob Clement
  • Mixed by David R. Ferguson
  • Assistant mixer: Mark Howard
  • Recorded and mixed at the Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa, Nashville, Tennessee
  • Music arrangements: Joey Miskulin
  • "Wanted Man" arranged by: Marty Stuart
  • Mastered by Benny Quinn at Masterfonics, INC., Nashville, Tennessee
  • Album design: Marlene Cohen
  • Photography serigraph: Alan Messer
  • Executive art director: Kim Markovchick
  • Linear notes: June Carter Cash

Reissue credits[edit]

  • Produced by Andy McKaie
  • Digitally remastered by Suha Gur, UNiversal Mastering-East
  • Art direction: Vartan
  • Design: Mike Fink @ilevel
  • Photo research: Ryan Null
  • Photos: Alan Messer
  • Production coordination: Beth Stempel

Chart performance[edit]


Chart (1991) Peak position
U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums 70


Year Single Peak positions
US Country
1990 "Goin' by the Book" 69
1991 "The Mystery of Life" -


  1. ^ Robert Hilburn, Johnny Cash: The Life (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013), p. 529

External links[edit]