Artist of the Month – Johnny Cash
April 1, 2018
April’s Artist of the Month needs no introduction.
Johnny Cash wasn’t simply a titan of country music. He was a singer, songwriter and musician of such rare depth and talent that his music crossed genres to reach a far wider audience than most artists ever dare dream of.
Cash was many things to many people, thanks in part to his ability to weave a coherent narrative from a variety of different strands. Who else but Johnny Cash could tell stories like a folk singer, imbue them with the emotional depth of country and wrap up them up in the rebelliousness of rock’n’roll?
When Johnny Cash passed away in 2003, he left behind a rich musical legacy stretching back decades. This was more than a back catalogue; this was a cultural treasure trove that not only bears repeated visits for those who’d already signed up to The Man In Black’s cause, but also as a call to arms for those to yet discover its myriad joys.
Nowhere is this eclectic vitality more evident than on ‘Johnny Cash: Forever Words’, an album of Cash’s previously unknown and unpublished writings and poems transformed into new songs by host of contemporary artists.
Drawing on written material left behind by Johnny Cash and his wife, June Carter Cash, their son, John Carter Cash, and co-producer Steve Berkowitz, set about inviting an incredible array of musicians to turn these words into songs with brand new music.
A huge undertaking by any measure, the pair attracted a range of towering talent that includes Cash’s former Highwaymen Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, Elvis Costello, his daughter Roseanne Cash, June Carter Cash’s daughter Carlene Carter, husband and wife Ruston Kelly & Kacey Musgraves as well as those giants of bluegrass Alison Krauss & Union Station among others.
Perhaps most touchingly is the appearance and participation of the late Chris Cornell. Just over two decades since Johnny Cash covered Soundgarden’s ‘Rusty Cage’ for the Grammy Award-winning album, ‘Unchained’, here Cornell provides new music for the affecting ‘You Never Knew My Mind’. A recording for the ages.
Crucially, this isn’t a re-tread of existing material but an original triumph; Johnny Cash’s universal truths presented by the artists that best connect with his words.
“Determining the artist for each song was truly a matter of the heart,” said John Carter Cash. “I picked the artists who are most connected with my father, who had a personal story that was connected with Dad. It became an exciting endeavour to go through these works, to put them together and present them to different people who could finish them in a way that I believed that Dad would have wanted.”
He’s not wrong. These are songs that bring a new perspective to Cash’s worldview infused with a sense of poignancy that brings John Carter Cash’s vision into sharp yet warm focus.
Which is why, like his previous work, ‘Johnny Cash: Forever Words’ will resonate through the ages.
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