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Last week John Carter Cash, son of one of the most iconic couples in music, Johnny Cash and June Carter, launched Johnny Cash: Forever Words – an album that sees Johnny Cash’s unpublished letters, poems and writings adapted into brand new musical pieces by the likes of Elvis Costello, Willie Nelson and Chris Cornell.
Over the past two years, the album’s producers, John Carter Cash and Steve Berkowitz, have invited a stellar cast of musicians to compose their own interpretation of these newly discovered Cash writings that the Man In Black penned throughout his life.
Johnny Cash: Forever Words was primarily recorded at The Cash Cabin Studio in Tennessee. “I did hear melody from the very beginning. And that was part of my hope, it was that the right pieces could be taken by the right artists,” John Carter Cash says about how the book that has inspired the album, set for release on 6 April.
He also tells us that for many of the artists on the album, especially Elvis Costello and Brad Paisley, the music just flowed right out of them spontaneously after having received the poems they were asked to interpret. “Gold All Over The Ground was written in 1967 when my father was very much in love with my mother but that was not quite public yet because he was still legally married to his wife Vivienne,”Carter Cash reveals about Paisley’s adaption during a launch event. “Even though their divorce had been finalised the ink had not completely dried. So Gold All Over The Ground was not something that he would have sung at that time.”
One of the stand-out songs on the record is The Walking Wounded, interpreted by Johnny Cash’s eldest daughter Rosanne Cash. “Gosh that sounds like dad,” John says about how much the song carries Johnny Cash, the singer’s dad, in its core.
Another masterpiece on the record is the hauntingly beautiful interpretation of You Never Knew My Mind by the late and great Chris Cornell. “When no one in my peer group was listening to Johnny Cash, I was,” the singer had confessed to Carter Cash backstage one day after the two started working together on the song. Cash’s son also noted that with this song especially, Chris Cornell and Johnny Cash truly connected on a mental level about the struggles with inner demons.
“My father could express the emptiness and still find hope,” Carter Cash explains. “There were times when my father could have fallen down just as hard as Chris ever did. But the beauty that is there remains, no matter what. And we can touch the soul of that and feel our own desperations inside, and connect with my dad. He showed his frailties and Chris does, too.”
But that isn’t where the genius of the album ends. Whether it’s country break-out star Kacey Musgraves and Ruston Kelly’s rendition of To June This Morning, a poem written while June Carter was heavily pregnant with John Carter Cash, or Elvis Costello’s signature sound added to I’ll Still Love You – which Johnny Cash wrote just a few months before his death about his undying love for June Carter – Johnny Cash: Forever Words is a wonderful arrangement of the words of one of the biggest musical geniuses of the 20th century. His family, friends and admirers have interpreted those words in their own unique ways. It’s a recording full of songs that will take you far into the depths of Johnny Cash’s mind, life and love for his wife June Carter.
“When I look at the words, I’m hearing the voice of my father in a way that I haven’t before,” John Carter Cash concludes.
And while nothing will ever come close to the Man In Black and his influence on the music we listen to today, you can feel his spirit with one of the best Johnny Cash tributes out there – Cash: A Tribute To The Man In Black. Tickets are on sale now via Ticketmaster.co.uk.