Home Live For Live Music Rescued 1993 Johnny Cash Recordings Slated For Release On ‘Songwriter’ Album

Rescued 1993 Johnny Cash Recordings Slated For Release On ‘Songwriter’ Album [Listen]

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unnamed 2024 04 23T131910.438

Shortly before Johnny Cash began his career-revitalizing collaborations with producer Rick Rubin, the Man in Black laid down some songwriting demos in early 1993. Once Cash linked up with Rubin and began the American Recordings series, the demos from his son-in-law’s LSI Studios in Nashville sat on the shelf as Johnny was thrust back into the national spotlight. Now, over 30 years after Johnny Cash first recorded them, those songs are coming out on the album Songwriter on June 28th via Mercury Nashville/UMe.

As the title suggests, the new 11-track album emphasizes not only the country legend’s iconic timbre, but also his songwriting voice. Cash alone wrote all of the songs on the album, a noteworthy feat for the musician who was just as celebrated for his interpretations of other artists’ songs as those he penned himself. Just before finding success with an array of covers for American Recordings, Johnny recorded these lyrics he wrote throughout his illustrious 40-year career.

Related: Watch 12 Outstanding Guest Performances From ‘The Johnny Cash Show’

Some of the songs date back to the 1970s, including “I Love You Tonite”, which Johnny wrote for his wife June Carter Cash, and “Poor Valley Girl”, which is about June and her country pioneer mother Maybelle Carter, likely written following the matriarch’s passing in 1978. Elsewhere, Cash reflects on his struggles with addiction and his ultimate recovery on “Like A Soldier”. On “Drive On”, Cash connects the pain he experienced from a broken jaw in the early ’90s to the hardships endured by veterans of the Vietnam War. Both “Like A Soldier” and “Drive On” were included on the first American Recordings album in 1994, though the Songwriter sessions marked their first recordings.

There’s also Johnny’s allusion to singer-songwriter James Taylor on “She Sang Sweet Baby James” and a reworking of the lesser-known gem “Sing It Pretty Sue”, first issued on 1962’s The Sound of Johnny Cash. The lead single, “Well Alright”, amplifies the plain-spoken simplicity of Cash’s worldview with a two-minute story about finding love in a laundromat.

Johnny Cash — “Well Alright”

Though Johnny’s songwriting and his singing voice were well represented in the 1993 sessions, the rest of the recordings came up short. So with help from Cash’s longtime producer David “Fergie” Ferguson, Johnny and June’s son John Carter Cash went about stripping the recordings back to the bare essentials of Johnny’s voice and acoustic guitar. Then, they assembled an ace team of studio musicians to give the songs new life.

“We just went rudimentary,” John Carter said of the approach. “We went straight to the roots, as far as the sound, and tried not to overly enhance it. We built as if dad was in the room. That’s what we tried to do. Between the both of us, Fergie and I have spent thousands of hours with dad in the recording studio, so we just tried to act like he was there: WWJCD, right?”

The A-Team of musicians included guitarist Marty Stuart, who toured with Cash in The Tennessee Three from 1980 to 1986, and upright bassist Dave Roe, who began touring with Johnny in the early ’90s. The new Songwriting sessions were a second chance for Roe, who played on the original 1993 recordings. Though Roe became known as one of the premier upright bassists, back in 1993 he was just making the switch from electric to upright and his skills were lacking. After one live show, Cash famously gave Roe money to take lessons and told him he had six months to learn. Roe went on to play on hundreds of albums until he died in 2023, and the new Songwriter sessions were likely one of his last recordings.

Other new additions include contributions from The Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach on “Spotlight” and vocals from Vince Gill on “Poor Valley Girl”. The original sessions included vocals from Cash’s friend and fellow outlaw country legend Waylon Jennings on “I Love You Tonite” and “Like A Soldier”. The rest of the band is filled out by Average White Band drummer Pete Abbott along with Ana Cristina Cash (background vocals), Matt Combs (acoustic guitar, mandolin, strings), Mike Rojas (B3 organ, piano), Russ Pahl (acoustic and electric guitar, bass, dobro, steel), and Sam Bacco (congas, percussion), along with additions from Grand Ole Opry guitarist Kerry Marx and vocalist Harry Stinson.

“I’m grateful that this record is here, even if it was only for me, because it reminds me of who my father was, and I do believe there are people out there that knew him on somewhat of a level that I did, that will be just as touched,” John Carter said. “But I also believe that there are people out there that have never heard my father’s music that will find new interest in hearing this, hearing this album and hearing my father’s voice. I hope that gleans some curiosity in some people where they dig further, and they discover more because there’s a lot to see within those pages.”

As for what Johnny Cash himself might think of the album, Fergie reflected, “I would think Johnny would say what he said about every record that I worked on with him, every record I think he ever made, when he got to the end of it, he always said, ‘I think it’s the best record I’ve ever made.’ You could count on that. I could just hear him say that. I think he’d be really proud of it.”

The posthumous Johnny Cash album Songwriter is available here for pre-order on digital, CD, and vinyl formats. See below for the full tracklist and album artwork.

Johnny Cash Songwriter Tracklist


1. Hello Out There
2. Spotlight

3. Drive On

4. I Love You Tonite

5. Have You Ever Been to Little Rock?

6. Well Alright

7. She Sang Sweet Baby James

8. Poor Valley Girl

9. Soldier Boy

10. Sing It Pretty Sue

11. Like A Soldier



Side A

1. Hello Out There

2. Spotlight

3. Drive On

4. I Love You Tonite

5. Have You Ever Been To Little Rock?

Side B

1. Well Alright

2. She Sang Sweet Baby James

3. Poor Valley Girl

4. Soldier Boy

5. Sing It Pretty Sue

6. Like A Soldier

View Tracklist

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Source: L4LM.com